“Christ is Baptized! In the Jordan!”
That's how Christian pilgrims greet one another to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 19 on the Orthodox calendar when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
“At this time of year, we wish to greet members of the Christian religion on the occasion of their baptism ceremonies,” Lt. Col. Eran Gross, head of the Jericho District Coordination and Liason Administration, said in a statement.
While many Orthodox believers across Eastern Europe and Russia braved frigid temperatures to dip three times in the water to signify the Trinity -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- thousands of others flocked to Israel for a ceremony that attracted faithful from across the world.
On Saturday, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, led a procession to the ceremony, which was attended by Gross and Civil Administration of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) head Brig. Gen. Ghassan Alyan.
Thousands participated in several ceremonies throughout Saturday and Sunday at the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal site, one of the holiest sites for Christians, under the protection of the IDF and Israeli police and auspices of COGAT and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Five Christian denominations held baptismal ceremonies at the Jordan River since the beginning of January, the Jerusalem Post reports, and additional ceremonies organized by the Coptic and Armenian communities are scheduled for later this month.