The name Jordan is Jewish and derives from “Iarden” which means “descend or collapse” and of course this is because the river current is most violent white water. The Arabs call it “Esseria” or “Seria El Kipir” but also use the name “El Ourd”, thus Jordan is not unknown. Three rivers connect to form this most historic river. These three rivers form Lake Gennesaret or Sea of Tiberiad. Arriving here, the Jordan River forms many brooks and rivers which flow into the Dead Sea. The valley through which flows the Jordan River from the lake Tiberiad to the Dead Sea is called the Jordan Valley.
The Jordan River is the most famous river of Palestine and of the Holy Land. It starts from the foot of the mountain Hermon, flows through the Asian-African geographic fault and reaches Lake Tiberiad. Continuing its flow with many meanderings it ends at the Dead Sea. The length of the river in a straight line from its source to its estuary at the Dead Sea is 220 km. The river apart from its prime role which it played and continues to play in the economic progress of Palestine was connected with many religious and historic events.
On the banks of the Jordan River the twelve tribes of Judah were separated before entering to possess the Promised Land. Near Jordan the Esseis built a coenobium some 200 years before the appearance of Christ and here on its eastern bank came John the Forerunner to preach to the people of Israel about baptism and repentance.
In its waters Christ Himself was baptized and since then became the most holy shrine of Christianity. During the 3rd century, the place of baptism of Christ had been established at the south end of the Jordan River opposite Jericho. The Church Fathers and especially Origen and Eusebios as the map of Madeba, locate the place of baptism near Bethabara, which means “transit”.
The event has a symbolic meaning. As the passage had as its goal the conquest of the Promised Land, so too the Christian baptism aims and proclaims the conquest of the Kingdom of Heavens. The place of baptism is also identified with the place from which the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven. The pilgrims can see the “Cave of the Prophet Elijah”
The baptism of the pilgrims in the Jordan River was ordained from early Christian times, while its water, the Holy Water, is transported to all the places of the Christian world. The pilgrims who are baptized at the “fordable water” are called “Hadjids”.