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The 2012 Baptism Ceremony

As in previuos years, on January 18th, thousands of pilgrims (and hundreds of tourists to film them..) assembled for the traditional ceremony of the “Epiphany” (=revelation) of Jesus as the son of God.

This year the state of Israel prepared internal parking lots at the Baptism site and there was no need for shuttles. Everything operated well and in order, except for the Ethiopians who decided this year to celebrate the event the following day.

At 11:00 the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilus III, arrived at the “John the Baptist monastery” (=”Qasr el-Yahud“), and conducted the first part of the ceremony.

Towards 12:00 the Patriarchs completed his prayers, and the procession from the monastery to the Jordan river began.

The Patriarch was escorted by an entourage of clergymen, led by ushers wearing the traditional red Turkish hats (“fez“).

The ushers leading the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch and entourage towards the Jordan river at the traditional Baptism site.

Before the Ushers the Beth-Shaour Scouts band were advancing and playing, with pride, Scottish pipes. This Christian Arab Pipe  band was founded in 1919 by the British, and performs to this day on various events.

The Beit-Sahour Scouts band (and a tour-guide..) leading the procession towards the Baptism site.
A Russian TV reporter trying to interview the Patriarch, Theophilus II in the middle of the ceremony. His guards tried pusing her back, but the Patriarch was quite cooporative with her..

At the Baptism site there was much anticipation and commotion. Only pilgrims intending to baptize in the Jordan were authorized to stand by the water. Wearing special white gowns, some will keep them for their burial.

Those who could not get close enough to the water watched the ceremony broadcasted on big screens.

The ceremony was also boradcasted on big screens at the site.
The Israeli Nature Parks Authority, who operate the site, sold many baptism gowns and other souvenirs on that day.

At the peak of the ceremony the Patriarch released several pigeons, and sprinkled on the audience holy water.

At the nearby Gerasimus monastery (=”Deir Hajla“) a basic yet nutritious free lunch was offered to the all.

On the Jordanian bank of the river there was no special activity on that day, but much constructing could be noticed. Five churches were already built on the Jordanian side, as well as a Russian-owned luxury hotel.

General view of the Jordanian side of the Baptism site. On the right side a new Russian-owned luxury hotel can be seen (click to enlarge).

Those who missed the ceremony will have another chance, well, next year, on January 18th..

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And here is a clip I took of the procession, with my phone..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjO_rHLzTws