Less than 2 km east of the Jordan River is an important place associated with the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist (pbut) – the settlement of Bethany, where John lived and baptized. John 1:28 refer to it as “Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing”. In John 10:40 it is mentioned as the place to which Jesus fled for safety after being threatened with stoning in Jerusalem: “Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days”. This settlement beyond the Bethany has recently been identified on the south bank of the small perennials stream named Wadi Kharrar, just east of the Jordan River and opposite Jericho. It is being excavated, protected, and made accessible for visitors. The small natural hill forming the core of Bethany is called Elijah’s Hill, or Tell Mar Elias in Arabic. Local tradition for thousands of years has identified it as the place from where Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire.
Bethany’s ancient remains include structures from the 1st century settlement of John the Baptist, including large plastered pools with steps for full immersion, and the 5th – 6th century remains of the Byzantine period settlement called Ainon or Saphsaphas and depicted on the 6th century Madaba mosaic map of the Holy Land. When Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism (Mark 1:12), he had been in the stark, desolate marl area immediately east of Jordan River and north of Bethany. He spread his message throughout Transjordan on several different occasions, including during his last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.