Traditionally divided into three main sections, the Jordan River runs through the state of Israel from the northern tip all the way down to the center of the country. Beginning with its sources in the north of Israel and running down to Lake Hulah constitutes the Jordan's first section. Then, from Lake Hulah to the Sea of Galilee is what is traditionally considered the Jordan's second section. Finally, from the Sea of Galilee the third section continues downward and drains into the Dead Sea. Together these sections form the longest and most important source of running water in Israel, providing over 70% of the country's freshwater supply.
And like the Jordan's importance as the country's primary water source, so is its religious importance to the tree monotheistic faiths. Best known as the place where Jesus was baptized (Gospel of Matthew), as well as the place where John the Baptist is believed to have baptized those who came to repent their sins, the Jordan River is perhaps Israel's most sacred body of water. To this day, the river's second segment (near its entry into the Sea of Galilee) is used for baptisms, drawing thousands of pilgrims to it who come to pay their respects, become baptized again or simply observe the Baptismal site. When on a tour to the Holy Land and visiting this sacred landmark, it is advisable to take a jar or container with you so as to draw water from the river.
The Jordan River in the Bible
Beyond its significance as the baptizing place of Christ, the Jordan River is mentioned many more times both in the Bible and in the New Testament, usually in reference to its lush vegetation and life giving powers. It is written in the New Testament that large parts of the ministries of John the Baptist, as well as those of the prophets Elijah and Elisha took place on the banks of the Jordan River.
As far as the Old Testament goes, the Jordan River is first mentioned in the Book of Genesis where its flourishing grounds are likened to those of the "Garden of God" (13:10). Also in the Bible, Jacob was renamed Israel at the Jabbok River, a tributary of the Jordan. Finally, in the Book of Joshua it is said that, like the Red Sea, the Jordan River parted before the Israelites so that they could cross it and enter the Promised Land.
With its sacred waters, historic significance and beautiful banks the Jordan River is a site not to be missed when on a Christian tour to Israel.
Jordan River - Recreation
In the past dozen years or so water sports have become a central feature of the Jordan River and a vital draw for tourists coming to the area on their Israel Tours. Boathouses, yachting clubs and business catering to extreme sports have popped up on the river banks. Whether you prefer a family oriented boat ride down the river, a romantic kayak ride for two or a more invigorating rafting experience, the Jordan River caters to them all. Throughout its 156 miles, the Jordan offers sweeping currents and mild waters allowing visitors of all ages as well as extreme sports lovers to find their preferred activity.
If you are not a water lover and prefer to remain dry and on land, the Jordan River banks offer a wide range of activities too. From cycling to horseback riding, guided nature hikes and jeep rides, the Jordan's banks are well mapped with plenty of trails for those willing to explore.