River Jordan water for royal christening. On Sunday (5 July), the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, baptised Princess Charlotte with water from the River Jordan. This is where it is believed Jesus was baptised by Saint John. Nowadays nearly half-a-million annual visitors, mostly Christian pilgrims, flock to rival baptism sites on opposite banks of the river. One side is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the other in Jordan. Israeli minefields menace the West Bank side, and visitors are warned to stick to a path lined with barbed wire and signs that read “Danger – Mines”. Israel provides polluted water from the Occupied West Bank side of the River Jordan to investors who clean and sterilise it and have it blessed. Israeli tourist shops offer expensive, embossed vessels bearing the words “recommended for christenings” and water-filled glass crucifixes selling for US$56 (£36). The site of Christ’s baptism in the West Bank is al-Maghtas(Israel calls it Qasr al-Yahud, from the Arabic “Castle of the Jews”). Palestinian Christians complain that Israel makes it difficult for them to gain access to the holy river, so for them, supplies are very limited. “Once or twice a year, during feast days, the Israelis let us fill up to four 16-litre (four-gallon) tanks,” says Fawzi Jaqaman, a Palestinian who puts together sets of rosaries, olive oil, soil and water from the Holy Land. But the business is frowned upon by many Christians. Father Jamal Khader, head of Religious Studies at Bethlehem University, says: “The Church is strongly opposed to selling blessings or spiritual objects for a profit.” In Acts 8:18 of the New Testament, Simon Magus offered to purchase the supernatural power of transmitting the Holy Spirit from the Apostles Peter and John. Such behaviour became know as the sin of Simony, “the act… of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, or emoluments; traffic in sacred things”. The practise became widespread in the Middle Ages.
Thanks to ‘In Occupied Palestine’, NZ Palestine Human Rights Campaign.