In recent years Israel has been developing a southern baptism site on the Jordan River in the Jericho area.  The country of Jordan opened a counterpart on the eastern side nearly a decade ago.  But the poor quality of the water threatens to close the site before it officially opens.  From the Jerusalem Post:

The site where tradition holds Jesus was baptized is in danger of being declared off-limits to pilgrims because of pollution in the Jordan River.  Qasar al-Yahud, a few miles from where the biblical river spills into the Dead Sea, has drawn over 100,000 tourists each year, most of whom are Christian pilgrims who wish to undergo a baptism like their savior did 2,000 years ago — and in the very same spot. But drought and irrigation have turned the mighty lower Jordan River into a stagnant stream as it makes it way from the Sea of Galilee. The brook then swells with raw sewage as it passes nearby Jericho. Israeli health officials are reportedly considering erecting signs warning: “Polluted Waters. Entry Forbidden.” […] Neglected for decades, the name of the site is Arabic for “Castle of the Jews,” which is also the name of the 5th century monastery. But since 2007, Israel has tried to bring Christian tourists ‘down by the riverside’ and has invested about $2 million to develop the site in order to allow wheelchair accessibility, shade, baptismal decks and other facilities. Entry is free. There is a similar site close-by on the Jordanian side, but the west bank side is considered holier since that’s the side Jesus likely used. […] Despite the heath risks, the Nature and Parks Authority continues to move ahead with restoration efforts including plans to open the site to tourists without the need for coordination with the military.

The JPost article is accompanied by a photo, the caption of which reads, “Pilgrims dunk themselves in stagnant sewage.”  The photo, however, was taken at the northern site of Yardenit, where the water quality is good. 


The string of articles on the newly renovated Israel Museum continues, this one from the New York Times:

For the last 45 years, the Israel Museum has been both the crown jewel of this country’s cultural heritage and a bit of a mess. It has the most extensive holdings of land-of-Israel archaeology anywhere (including a heel bone pierced by an iron nail with wood fragments, the world’s only physical evidence of crucifixion), an encyclopedic collection of Judaica and an exceptional group of Modernist artworks. It sits on a 20-acre campus atop a hill at Jerusalem’s western entrance, holding pride of place along with the architectural and national landmarks that surround it, including the Knesset, or parliament, and the Supreme Court. But as any past visitor can attest, finding one’s way around the museum’s art and archaeology has not been easy. Visits have begun with an uphill trek from a parking lot exposed to the hot sun and, inside the galleries, a feeling of being overwhelmed by quantity and mildly perplexed about substance. That is about to change. On Monday the museum opens new galleries and public spaces. There will be far fewer objects on display, with twice the space to view them, as well as richer links and explanations. In some of the new spaces soft light enters through filtered glass walls, the Jerusalem landscape a dreamy background presence. And a climate-controlled path leads to a central concourse from which the works can be reached. The idea is not simply to make the museum easier to navigate but also to suggest interesting connections among objects and between the particular and the universal. That is never an easy task in this city of stones, where each culture has long sought dominance and where the interplay between preservation and transformation causes endless heartache.

The article also notes that the renovation was completed on time and on budget.  It’s hard to overstate the significance of this achievement.   The full article is here.