Baptism Site of Jordan - Jordan
>>>The Baptism Site of Jordan, Bethany beyond the Jordan
|Name||The Baptismal Site of Jesus Christ (Almaghtas)|
|Place||Balqa governorate, Jordan Valley|
Why is this case relevant?
The Baptism Site, an archaeological park that represents an evidence of what a society considers a “Holy place” and has been venerated as such since the Byzantine period, at least. It represents an example on how the geography, and Roman and Byzantine epochs have influenced the context, and for these reasons the site is chosen.
The site gained its religious significance, because it is the location where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist. The site also embraces two archaeological areas; The remnants of a monastery on a mound known as Tell Mar-Elias, and an area near the river with roman and byzantine remains of churches and caves used by hermits and pilgrims as dwellings and ponds in which baptisms were celebrated. And therefore, the site is inscribed in the UNESCO list of 2015. The site is listed as a cultural property, according to the UNESCO selection criteria:
III. The site bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
VI. The site directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/
Which idea of ‘design with nature’ guides the design concept of this site?
The area is said to be highly maintained, since it was classified as a Jordanian archaeological site by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities after the completion of excavations that began in 1996. And the management plan set is adequate; The site and its buffer zone is protected under the Jordan Valley Authority Laws, and on the site level it is managed under the laws of the Baptism Site Commission. The archaeological remains in the site have been conserved in their original materials, and some have been restored using similar materials, to preserve the authenticity of the area. If maintenance and management strategies are missing, the site is expected to lose its religious, cultural and archaeological significance. Decay, Rot, and collapses are also expected, especially of those structures that are exposed to water directly, and the different weather conditions
Which challenges is this landscape facing?
- The main challenges on are:
1. Sensitive Political Situation: The site has shared waters with occupied Palestine “Israel”. And despite all the documents which prove that Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordanian side of the river, Israel has not stopped trying to attribute it to the occupied side of the Jordan River, this had led to tensions between the two countries instead of having shared (mutual) benefits.
2. Deteriorated Water Quality: Water quality has been extremely hindered, with saline flows, agricultural runoff, ineffectively treated sewage being discharged by all networks along the stream. And this has likewise caused a decrease in biodiversity. EcoPeace Middle East warned of serious health threat which led to doubts whether the river was safe for immersion at the baptism site in the Western Bank, therefore, the Israeli authorities declared that the water is regularly monitored and is safe for immersion, although Israelian and Jordanian communities release poorly treated sewage into the river. As a result, a new sewage treatment plant aims to remove sewage from the river. Ecopeace, therefore, recommends that 400-600 MCM/year of fresh water be returned to the river and that the river is allowed to flood once a year in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem, and in May 2013, the Israel Water Authority is allowing 9 mcm/year of fresh water to flow regularly from Lake Tiberias (Kinneret) into the Lower Jordan River in an effort to ecologically rehabilitate it. The Jordan River will never return to its natural state, but it has to be respected as shared key to life and a mutual benefit for these two countries.
3. Delegations caused by Climatic and Environmental Stresses: Various climatic and environmental factors can negatively impact the site and its waters such as; Salination, Crystallization, Moss, and Algae especially in caves, Wind, Rain, Sunshine; it offers year-round sunny skies and dry air especially that the area is the lowest point on earth so it has a desert climate,..etc.
4. Man-made Negative impacts: Vandalism, Economic pressures and forces of investment building new facilities for commercial use and other purposes, as well as the continuous practice of pilgrimage to the site and Baptism rituals on site could lead to man-made negative impacts, resulting in decay, especially that the rocks of the site consists of Lisan Marl, with thin layers of chalk and clay
5. The evident difference in the number of Tourists (Jordan receives fewer tourists): According to the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities he number of Visitors to the Baptism site in 2013 was 86, 339 visitors, while the Baptism site of the Western Bank (Named as Qasr Yhaud) hosted 464,000 visitors. This possibly refers to the upgraded, the rehabilitated and well-advertised archaeological site in the West Bank.
6. Lack of regular maintenance.
7. Lack of local community involvement in site development: So during a visit, broken seats in the designated rest areas along the archaeological park, and inadequately shaded areas have been witnessed, therefore a regular maintenance and monitoring plan has to be set and followed.
What would be your strategy for improvement?
1. Adopting appropriate conservation measures, including adequate maintenance and monitoring plan.
2. Analyzing pollution effects on the site should be identified properly and be available to the public, and the water treatment plant should be set adequately.
3. Encouraging the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to effectively collaborate with responsible bodies and related parties to integrate the archaeological site within the environmental development plans.
4. Better law enforcement is required concerning activities of the archaeological and religious tourism.
5. Rehabilitating Projects that seek to implement and upgrade facilities and maintain the site attractions regularly, to attract more local, regional and international tourist to the eastern part.
6. Engaging Christians, Jewish, and Muslims in raising awareness of the importance of preserving the site as a shared religious and cultural-historical heritage site.
An evidence of what a society considers a “Holy place” and has been venerated as such since the Byzantine period, at least. It represents an example of how the geography and Roman and Byzantine epochs, as well as the present political situation have influenced the context of the area. Image modified from source: https://www.sapiens.org/archaeology/yardenit-baptismal/
The Site was abandoned after World War I due to regional tensions. After the 1967 War, it became an inaccessible military zone and the area was only demined and ‘rediscovered’ after Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. Extensive archeological excavations unearthed a series of churches, monasteries, and dwellings, including the cave where John the Baptist retreated and the church described by the Piacenza Pilgrim. Image source: http://www.baptismsite.com/the-place-where-jesus-was-baptized/
The political situation between Jordan and Israel is a huge pressure, due to the shared water with occupied Palestine, which has led to tensions between the two countries. The rehabilitation project proposed by the west bank might not be the right approach (Jordan was intervening with minimal impacts to the site) but yet Jordan receives fewer tourists. This site could be an opportunity for tourism turnover if managed adequately. Image modified from source: http://ecopeaceme.org/uploads/Baptism_in_the_Jordan_River_Francesca_de_Chatel.pdf
Jordan conservation strategy was unpretentious and aims to maintain the existing structures in its state with minimal impacts to the site, as seen in the image above, but yet the site requires maintenance regularly and visitors facilities to attract more local, regional and international tourists.Image source: https://www.special-pilgrimages.co.uk/destinations/mount-nebo-and-petra-
Water quality has been extremely deteriorated, about 2 km to the south of Lake Tiberias at the Alumot Dam, Israel releases partially treated sewage and saline flow diverted from the shores of Lake Tiberias, Further downstream all communities along the Lower Jordan River release agricultural run-off, and poorly treated sewage.Image 1 source: http://mawwadahsuci.blogspot.com/2011/07/angan-angan-kah-atau-impian-kah.html, Image 2 source: http://origins.osu.edu/article/baptized-jordan-restoring-holy-river/page/0/1
After the EcoPeace detailed studies and research, media pressures and international campaign to rehabilitate the lower Jordan River from severe degradation, the first steps towards reviving the river are taken by removing pollutants from the river, and returning fresh water to it. According to EcoPeace middle east, in May 2013, the Israel Water Authority is allowing 9 mcm/year of fresh water to flow regularly from Lake Tiberias (Kinneret) into the Lower Jordan River in an effort to ecologically rehabilitate it. In addition, to a new Waste Water Treatment Plants have been built in Jordan, Palestine and its occupied parts, all in proximity to the River, and therefore, sewage from the surrounding communities will no longer be discharged into the River. Well, it is understandable that the Jordan River will never return to its natural state, yet it could be respected as shared the key to life among these two countries in the arid region. Image 1 source: http://ecopeaceme.org/projects/lower-jordan-river/achievements/, Image source 2: http://origins.osu.edu/article/baptized-jordan-restoring-holy-river/page/0/1
- Roi Kais, Itamar Eichner (June 07, 2015): https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4676695,00.html
- Tharoor, Ishaan (July 13, 2015): "U.N. backs Jordan's claim on site where Jesus was baptized". The Washington Post
- http://www.mota.gov.jo/contents/Tourism_Statistical_Newsletter_2014.aspx 5.1 Visitors to Main Tourist Sites by Nationality
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