From the Room of the Last supper in Jerusalem to the Church of the Annunciation in Nazereth, touring through modern-day Israel is walking in the ancient footprints of the Lord. Beyond the popular tourist destinations, however,are hidden gems from Biblical times like the Jordan ValleyNational Park. A visit to this land that time forgot guarantees an unforgettable day in your journey to the Holy Land.
Located in the foothills of the Golan Heights region, approximately 1-2 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee, Park HaYarden, as it is known in Hebrew, is a picturesque stroll through expansive trails and open spaces as well as sites of historic significance.
Natural Beauty in the Jordan River National Park
The Jordan River, being the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, naturally epitomizes the beauty of the Christian faith. As far back as Genesis, the Jordan River it is said to be like “the garden of God.” (Genesis 13:10) This area, though a bit “off the beaten path,” is a natural beauty not to be missed.
This treasured park includes over 250 acres of riverbanks, native trees and vegetation, birds and waterfowl, and of course, plenty of fish.
Historic flour mills once operated within the park. Today, a channel has been restored to harness the power of the Jordan River’s current. It carries water 600 meters to two reconstructed chute mills, in which the water flows down a diagonal chute to the lower floor of the structure, where it turns a large paddled waterwheel attached to an axis that rotates the upper millstone on the floor above, grinding the wheat grains into flour.
Reeds, willows, and Syrian ash cover the riverbanks and small islands within the Jordan Valley National Park. In the summertime, the large pink flowers of the Oleander beautify the area. The dark and delicious berries of the holy bramble can be picked for a summertime treat. Jujube trees, as well as palms dot the grounds.
The picturesque park is inviting to hikers, campers, and picnicking families. In warmer months, many also use its facilities for water sports like kayaking and water tubes.
Modern-day families fish in the park, instantly transporting us back to the times of the Lord and the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.
Feeding the multitude and healing the blind
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place near Bethsaida. Over 5,000 people followed him from the towns. Jesus healed the sick among them. As dinnertime approached, Jesus took five loaves and two fish, gave thanks to the Heavens, broke the loaves and fed the thousands.1
The site of this miracle of the five loaves and two fish is in the southeastern section of Jordan River National Park. The name Bethsaida (Beit Tzeida) means “House of Fishing,” and today, you can wander around the ruins of the archeological site of the ancient Fortress City of Bethsaida fishing village.
Mark 8:22-26 tells us how Christ also miraculously healed the blind man from Bethsaida.
A site of two grand miracles is definitely worth a visit!
The Jordan River National Park: Christ and Nature Unite
Whether it is for the Biblical significance or the ecological importance of the Jordan River, its relevance cannot be argued. Whether your visit to Israel included many well-traveled Christian sites (like Bethlehem and Capernaum) or natural tourist attractions (like Masada and Caesarea), the Jordan River National Park, though (and perhaps – because) it is lesser known and not as touristy, is a must-visit location in Israel for nature lovers and followers of Christ.