QASR AL YAHUD, West Bank – Thousands of Christian pilgrims took part in a massive baptism held by the Orthodox church at a famed baptismal site on the Jordan River near the Palestinian city of Jericho.
Theophilos III, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, presided over the ritual that took place at Qasr al-Yahud, the location on the river Jordan where, according to the Gospels of the Christian Bible, Jesus Christ was baptized in roughly the year 30 CE.
Christian tradition holds that he was baptized by a holy Jewish preacher, John the Baptist, who lived in Roman Palestine as a hermit and told the faithful of Jesus’ coming.
The Orthodox pilgrims, mostly adults clad in white baptismal tunics for the traditional event, waded into the river and submerged themselves in a Christian rite of rebirth and communion with god.
The Israeli Civil Administration – the governing organization which oversees the West Bank and is connected to the Israeli military – provided security for the Christian ceremony.
Many onlookers came with the pilgrims and took pictures of the mass baptism with their handheld mobile devices.