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ICEJ honoured for sponsoring ‘Wall of New Life’ at Yardenit

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ICEJ honoured for sponsoring ‘Wall of New Life’ at Yardenit

The Yardenit baptismal site near the Sea of Galilee, one of Israel’s most popular tourist venues, recently honoured the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for sponsoring its Wall of New Life, which features beautiful Armenian tile renditions in nearly 40 languages of the Gospel of Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus.

Kibbutz Kinneret, Israel’s second oldest kibbutz, established the Yardenit baptismal site some 30 years ago on a branch of the Lower Jordan River as it flows out of the south end of the Sea of Galilee. The serenity of the location readily invited visitors back to that moment when Jesus began his public ministry by entering the waters of baptism in the same Jordan river. The site quickly became a “must” stop for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, and today it draws nearly one million visitors per year.

Yardenit’s managers were especially moved over the years by their encounters with friendly, exuberant evangelical Christians, who have become the main focal point of their marketing efforts. While most Bible sites in Israel frequented by Christians are owned and maintained by the Catholic or Greek Orthodox churches and thus cater primarily to their followers, Yardenit is unique in the welcoming atmosphere it offers to Evangelicals. The Israel Ministry of Tourism has also given the site much emphasis in its promotional materials.

For these reasons, the Christian Embassy was pleased to have the opportunity to establish a “presence” at this popular site through the Wall of New Life project. The ICEJ’s Executive Director, Rev. Malcolm Hedding, and International Director Dr. Juergen Buehler were recently invited to take part in a ceremony dedicating a plaque along the Wall which honours the
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for sponsoring the project.

The Wall is designed to be a significant feature at Yardenit, beginning at the entrance to the facility and continuing along the banks of the Jordan to the baptismal pools. It conveys a powerful and welcoming message, as most visitors from various nations around the globe are able to read the account of Jesus’ baptism from Mark 1:9-11 in their native languages.

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven; ‘Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased.’”

The Wall is dedicated to Christians throughout the world who have been baptised at the site, and consists of some 40 panels of beautifully hand-painted tiles created by noted Armenian artist Hagop Antreassian from Jerusalem’s Old City. Each panel presents the same baptismal verses from Mark in a different language, ranging from tribal tongues of Africa to prevalent European languages and unique Asian scripts.

At the dedication, Hedding described Yardenit as “a special place for evangelical Christians, where the spiritual dreams of millions of Bible-believing Christians have come true. To follow their Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, through the waters of baptism and to be able to do so in the flowing waters of River Jordan is a supernatural experience.”

“We appreciate that you’ve done something this unique”, Hedding told the Yardenit leadership. “I think by this particular facility you have also made a great contribution in Jewish-Christian relations. The fact that Israelis would build a baptismal site for Christians – it’s quite astonishing.”

Rev. Hedding was also invited to plant an olive tree in the Yardenit gardens in his name as a memorial to his efforts in building closer Christian ties to Israel over recent decades.

 

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