We are still at the site shown on Friday (click on 'previous' on the right, above the picture, to view). This time around, I will provide some facts. The place where we were, is known as Qasr el-Yehud and is on the west bank of the Jordan river. In this picture, the river is down below (out of sight) and about 30 yards away. The furthest trees in the background, are in the Kingdom of Jordan. Just behind those trees, is a spot where 5 fresh water sources end up in the Wadi Al-Kharrar, that serves as a short tribute to the Jordan river.
The water in this area is shallow enough to be forded. Apart from being the baptismal site, it is most likely where the Israelites forded the Jordan, before defeating Jericho (a few miles away) and occupying the land of Canaan (now Israel). The Hajlah ford is the most forded part at this site.
So, do we know for sure that Jesus' baptism took place here? In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John it is said that John the Baptist baptised in the Jordan, within reach of Jerusalem, in the Judean desert or wilderness. This is the area, north of Jerusalem, that complies to the description. We also read that just before Jesus came to be baptised, John was visited by the Pharisees to see what he was doing, because he had many followers or great influence. Then John 1:28 says "These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptising." The most original text read "Bethany beyond Jordan". Jesus came to John the Baptist, the next day, according to the Gospel. The name change from Bethany to Bethabara (which means 'house of the ford') follows the writings of Origen (A.D. 185-254) and subsequent translations of the Bible referred (wrongly) to Bethabara. Origen was a guy, interested in the etymology of place names and used that to make his decisions. There is no evidence that he ever searched for Bethany. Now, many years later, there is no way to determine where Bethany was situated. We only know that it is NOT the Bethany on the other side of the Mountain of Olives, in Jerusalem.
The early Byzantine church built a Basilica at a spot known as Al-Maghtas on the Wadi Al-Kharrar, just on the other side of the furthest trees. Archaeologists confirmed that these buildings date from Byzantine times. According to records Al-Maghtas was chosen, because it is the most likely spot in the area where John the Baptist baptised according to early tradition. That a town by the name of Bethany accross the Jordan existed in this area, is possible. Its name could have been bastardised to Bethabara, as so many other names have been bastardised, over the ages. Bethany could be Bethneh, a few km's north of here, but not close to the Jordan. But then, the Jordan is now narrower, because of water usage by Israel, Syria and Jordania. Over the ages, following flooding, it also changed its course at times.
Given all the facts available, I am comfortable that Jesus was baptised in this general area. Whether it was 100 meters upstream or downstream, doesn't really matter. All the names I have provided, are within the radius of a few hundred meters from this spot. Close enough.
The guy in the picture is leading a service in an open sided church, probably prior to some mass baptism. It was in some language I don't understand, but there were people standing around as if they are going to be baptised. And we didin't stay long enough to be sure.