Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almost naked in the Jordan

The article in today's Jordan Times, "Bethany Beyond the Jordan becoming global pilgrimage destination", prompts me to write of my own experience of visiting the site, approximately two weeks ago.

When we approached the deck above the Jordan River and the Baptism font, our eyes were treated to the rather full body of a young woman clad in the briefest of white bikinis, thong and all! A group of women were to the side, in various stages of undress, having just climbed out of the river. And, the crowning glory, a woman of probably 55-60 years of age still in the water, clothed, or rather unclothed, in a soaking wet black negligee-style dress, which left nothing to the imagination.

The majority of our group were truly offended, particularly an Arab nun accompanied by younger relatives; and a couple of German ladies, one resident in Jordan, and one visiting. They verbally attacked our guide, who explained that this was a recent occurrence amongst Russian tourists, and when he had expressed his reservations on previous occasions, had been told by the "bathers" that to submerge themselves in the holy waters was part of their culture. The independent guide, i.e. not of the Baptism Site, said that the tourists were entitled to behave as they wished.

Clearly, something has to be done so that the Baptism Site is a positive experience for all. Many members of our group had come for a spiritual experience, and were really distraught. My visitors were offended, and slightly bemused, at such a sight that would not be acceptable on a seaside beach, let alone at a holy site.

This was my fifth visit and I was truly disappointed. I felt that the Baptism site has been forgotten despite the grandiose building projects of churches, seminaries etc. The Orthodox Church was once again closed. It is an absolute disgrace that people can not enter a church at this holy site, and should be vigorously pursued by the Ministry of Tourism with the church authorities.
If "Bethany Beyond the Jordan" is really to become a global pilgrimage destination, drastic action needs to be taken.


Anonymous loolt said...

how weird... fine to submerge yourself in the river but why the thongs? i think it would be reasonable to have a dress code, like proper swimsuit for example? would that ruin the experience for them?

Thursday, August 21, 2008  
Blogger joladies said...

I would have thought that these people are not only offending others but putting their health at risk knowing how polluted the River Jordan is. Maybe the authorities should have a special private pool available for those who wish to immerse themselves. T

Thursday, August 21, 2008  
Blogger joladies said...

Just where are the tourist police when you need them?Sitting in little boxes in Sweyfieh??

While on the subject of the JT article, I was a little concerned to read that the Baptism site is going to be developed - (read noise and construction pollution for a few years) .... with so many churches of different denominations .... reminds me of the sorry state of church relations in Bethlehem and Jerusalem ... and why on earth do we need more development such as a convention centre near the site when we have a very nice one ten minutes down the road next to a hotel, along the Dead Sea?
Hope the site doesn't turn into Bethany beyond recognition ... J

Thursday, August 21, 2008  
Blogger MommaBean said...

Yikes! That IS offensive. El 3atal and I haven't even made it to the site yet (after 2 years here, how sad is that?!). I agree that if you are going to have a church there, you should keep it open during the hours that the site is open...

Thursday, August 21, 2008  
Blogger joladies said...

Where were the tourist police, J? Waterside, grinning from ear-to-ear!
I am also against all the construction and think that an interdenominational church for all would have been a much better idea

Thursday, August 21, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, McM, I think that an all-female tourist police unit would be able to handle this situation very neatly! :) K

Saturday, August 23, 2008  

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