One by one, the pilgrims plunged under the cool, khaki-toned waters of the Jordan River, wading in from the Israeli-controlled western bank to rededicate their faith at the spot where John the Baptist is believed to have baptized Jesus.
The river here is narrow and lazy, lined with vivid green bulrushes and dotted with palm trees.
“It was freezing cold!” exclaimed Laura Ng, 58, a member of a Christian Bible study group from Singapore, as she emerged from the murky water in a purple T-shirt. “But when I got immersed, I felt cleansed all over.”
On the opposite bank, a few gentle swim strokes away, a smaller group of tourists stood on the Jordanian side and took photos on their cellphones.
In the days before Easter, Holy Land tour groups were arriving by the busload at the Israeli-run baptism site known as Qasr al-Yahud. Arabic for “the Castle of the Jews,” the name is said to be a reference to the castle-like appearance of a nearby Greek Orthodox monastery and to Jewish belief, which holds that this is where Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land.