Jericho, Israel, January 31, 2018
The Holy Monastery of St. John the Baptist, situated on the west bank of the Jordan River, reopened as an Orthodox shrine of the Jerusalem Patriarchate on Monday, the patriarchate’s website reports.
According to Church Tradition, the Bethabara area, east of Jericho, where the monastery is situated, is believed to have been the site of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ by the hand of St. John the Baptist, which is celebrated annually on January 6/19 in the great feast of Theophany. It is also believed to be site where the Israelites crossed the River Jordan under the command of Joshua. Moreover, the cave where St. John the Baptist lived in the desert was preserved nearby in early Christian years.
The monastery, which has stood at this spot since the fourth century, when St. Helen was building churches and monasteries in the Holy Land, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries.
The latest round of reconstruction, which was undertaken by the Jerusalem Patriarchate over the past several years, has been to fix the damage that the monastery suffered during the Six Day War of 1967. The monastery also fell victim to acts of vandalism during the restoration process, when assailants broke into the church, broke a computer, and left graffiti.
Work has also been underway for several years to clear Qasr al-Yehud, the site of Christ’s Baptism, of landmines left from the war. The clearing work has been taken on by the Scottish-based HALO Trust, with approval from the Israelis, Palestinians, and religious denominations. Free access to the sites in the area was opened by the Israeli government in 2011, whereas specific military permission was previously required.
The monastery is currently under the care of an Archimandrite Bartholomew.