Qasr al-Yahud

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Qasr al-Yahud
قصر اليهود
Baptism Site of Jesus Christ JO 5.JPG
Map showing the West Bank
Map showing the West Bank
Shown within the West Bank
Alternative nameAl-Maghtas[1]
LocationArea C, Jericho Governorate, West Bank (State of Palestine)
Coordinates31°50′18″N 35°32′21″E / 31.838333°N 35.539167°E / 31.838333; 35.539167
Palestine grid201/138
Site notes
Public accessYes (see website)
Website[ Baptismal Site on the Jordan River - Qasr al-Yahud[2]

Qasr al-Yahud (Arabic: قصر اليهود, lit. "The tower of the Jews",[3] Hebrew: קאסר אל יהוד), also known as Al-Maghtas,[1] is the western section of the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist on the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17). It has also been traditionally identified with two episodes from the Hebrew Bible, as one of the possible points through which the Israelites have crossed the Jordan river as they reached the Promised Land (Joshua 3), and as the site where prophet Elijah ascended to heaven (2 Kings 2:1-14).[4][5] "Qasr al-Yahud" is actually an Arabic name given to the nearby Monastery of St John the Baptist, but is also being used for the West Bank section of the baptism site itself.[6]

The spot is located in Area C of the West Bank[7] and it sits directly across the eastern section (on Wikipedia as "Al-Maghtas"; known officially in Jordan as "Baptism Site "Bethany Beyond the Jordan"") and close to the Palestinian city of Jericho. Since the Six-Day War in 1967, the baptism site has been under Israeli occupation, and the site and facilities are currently administered by the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism as part of a national park, where baptism ceremonies can be performed.


The Jordanian side uses the names Al-Maghtas, Bethany beyond the Jordan and Baptism(al) Site, while the western part is known as Qasr al-Yahud. The nearby Greek Orthodox Monastery of St John the Baptist has a castle-like appearance (thus qasr, "castle"), and tradition holds that the Israelites crossed the river at this spot (thus al-Yahud, "of the Jews").[8][9][10] The monastery is known in Arabic both as Deir Mr Yuhanna, lit. "Monastery of Saint John", and Qasr el-Yahud.[6]


It is variously spelled as Kasser or Qasser, al- or el-, Yahud or Yehud etc.


Qasr al-Yahud is located in the West Bank, a little southeast from Jericho, and is part of the Jericho Governorate[11] Since the Six-Day War in 1967, it has been under Israeli occupation, and the site and facilities are currently administered by the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism as part of a national park.


As part of the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus, it has been a pilgrimage site since late antiquity.

The 6th-century Madaba Map places Bethabara ("house of the ford", "place of crossing"), a name used by some versions of the New Testament, on the west bank of the Jordan (see Al-Maghtas#Bethabara).



Qasr al-Yahud is close to the ancient road and river ford connecting Jerusalem, via Jericho, to several Transjordanian biblical sites such as Madaba, Mount Nebo and the King's Highway.[11]

According to Procopius (writing c. 560 CE), Emperor Justinian I had a cistern constructed here.[12] In 1883 it was described as "still visible, in almost perfect condition".[13]

Crusader period[edit]

According to Theoderic (c. 1172), the Templars had built a castle next to the Greek monastery of St John and the Baptism site, of which no trace has been found.[14] The Templars, together with the Hospitallers, had the mission of protecting the pilgrims who came to the Holy Land in the time of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and this castle was part of a chain of Templar fortifications along the pilgrimage route down to the Jordan, which also included the castle of Maldoim halfway between Jerusalem and the river, and the fortified top of Mount Quarantana above Jericho.[14]

19th and 20th century[edit]

Russian Orthodox women visiting "Al-Maghtas" (1913)

The west side of the traditional baptism site became again a target for mass pilgrimage toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.[15] Later in the 20th century, a large number of churches and monasteries were built between the old Greek Orthodox Monastery of St John the Baptist and the river, an area that became known as the "Land of the Monasteries". It comprised Catholic (Franciscan), Greek, Ethiopian Orthodox, Syriac, Russian, Romanian, and Coptic churches.[16][17]

After 1967[edit]

The site was closed in 1967 during the Six-Day War.[11] The restoration project was approved before the 2000 millennium celebrations but was delayed due to the Second Intifada and flooding in the region in 2003.[4] In 2000, Pope John Paul II held a private worship at the site.[4]

After 2011[edit]

The modern site reopened in 2011.[18] Qasr al-Yahud is administered by the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. In 2019, the area near the site was demined by the NGO Halo Trust.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip". Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 28 September 1995. Retrieved 25 November 2022. ... Palestinians shall have the right to religious pilgrimage to the Al-Maghtas under the Palestinian flag. Safe passage will be provided from the Jericho Area to Al-Maghtas for this purpose. (Annex III: Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs. Article 32: Religious Sites. Point 5.)
  2. ^ "Baptismal Site on the Jordan River - Qasr al-Yahud". Israel Nature and Parks Authority. 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  3. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 346
  4. ^ a b c Ginat, Gitit (14 January 2010). "Take me to the river". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Jesus's baptismal site, long sealed off, to be cleared of landmines". The Times of Israel. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  6. ^ a b Noort (2004), p. 232.
  7. ^ Lidman, Melanie (18 June 2015). "Baptism by mire? In lower Jordan River, sewage mucks up Christian rite". Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Survey of Western Palestine, sheet 15". Palestine Exploration Fund. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  9. ^ Theodosios Mitropoulos, architect. "The Holy Monastery of St John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan River/Qasr-el-Yahud". The [Greek Orthodox] Patriarchate of Jerusalem – Official News Gate. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015. The Holy Monastery of St John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan River/Qasr-el-Yahud […] The perimeter walls, specifically their uppermost portion, terminate at battlements, which lend the monument the form of a Medieval castle. This is in all likelihood why its Arab name is Qasr al-Yahud [The castle of the Jews]
  10. ^ Othmar Keel; Max Küchler; Christoph Uehlinger (1992). Orte und Landschaften der Bibel, Volume 2. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 528. ISBN 9783525501672. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  11. ^ a b c "In rivalry over Jesus' baptism site, UNESCO backs Jordan over West Bank, as debate goes on". Fox News World. Al-Maghtas, Jordan. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  12. ^ Procopius, 1888, p. 149: "in the monastery of St. John beside the Jordan, a cistern"
  13. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWPIII, p. 177
  14. ^ a b Pringle, D. (2017) [1994]. Barber, M. (ed.). Templar Castles on the Road to the Jordan. The Military Orders Volume I: Fighting for the Faith and Caring for the Sick. Routledge. p. 152. ISBN 9781351542593. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  15. ^ Frantzman, Seth J. (2015-08-13). "Region's baptism sites a bridge completing the Holy Land pilgrimage". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2022-06-18.
  16. ^ Anshel, Pfeffer (11 April 2020). "Jesus's baptism site is cleared of Israeli mines". The Times. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  17. ^ Lidman, Melanie (8 January 2019). "Effort removes thousands of landmines from site of Jesus' baptism". Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  18. ^ Levinson, Chaïm (July 25, 2011). "Jesus' baptismal site in Jordan Valley reopens to pilgrims". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  19. ^ Lidman, Melanie (2019-05-27). "900 landmines detonated in Qasr al Yahud on the Jordan River". The Times Of Israel. Retrieved 2022-06-18.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°50′18″N 35°32′21″E / 31.83833°N 35.53917°E / 31.83833; 35.53917