Just a few minutes down the road from our hotel in Tiberias, is the start of the Jordan River carrying water from the Sea of Galilee south to the Dead Sea.
Very close to the Sea of Galilee, a baptism site has been set up at Yardenit. Anyone wishing to be baptised may participate and at times there are 3 or 4 pairs of priests conducting the baptisms at any one time. Baptism certificates are provided for each participant. The site is well laid out with plenty of change rooms and also balconies for viewing purposes. White robes must be worn over personal clothing and these can be purchased at the store on-site for a small cost.
On our visit there was a very large group of Spanish-speaking visitors and the air was filled with superb Spanish music as people waited very excitedly for their turn. The water is clean in this part of the Jordan River and large shoals of fish can be seen lurking in the water close to where sets of steps lead down to the river. Once the Spanish group were finished, everyone stayed in the river and a fun water fight took place.
However, it was time for us to leave and head inland to Nazareth where Jesus spent many years of his young life. In Nazareth we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. Visible from quite a distance, the strange cupola, resembling a large lampshade, helps guide the faithful to its entrance. On the inside of the courtyard wall surrounding the Basilica, hang paintings and mosaics created and donated from nationalities around the world – all depicting Mary.
Impressive iron doors guard the main entrance although we snuck inside through a side door. Once inside you are drawn to a sunken enclosure which protects what is considered the traditional site of Mary’s house along with remnants of 4th Century (Byzantine) and 12th Century (Crusade) churches.
Leaving the bustling city behind, we turned south and travelled along the fertile Jordan Valley before reaching the ruins of Beit She’an. This must have been a major Roman city but was abandoned after the catastrophic earthquake of 749 AD. Not only were the buildings and temples in ruins, but the complex water and sewerage channels beneath the city were irreparably damaged. Take a look at the paved roadway with its raised median strip! The quality of it would rival many highways we have today.
With temperatures around 36 degrees Celsius, we staggered back to bus to enjoy the air conditioning and cold bottled water as we drove the final stretch to Jerusalem.