Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Baptism site – where religions meet and bring up emotions

     Even if emotions have so far not been the main center of focus of tourism studies, an increasing number of scholars have dedicated more attention to the influence emotions have on touristic encounters. As Davidson and Milligan suggested “our first and foremost, most immediate and intimately felt geography is the body, the site of emotional experience and expression par excellence. Emotions, to be sure, take place within and around this closest of spatial scales”. Consequently, emotions take place in and very close to our bodies and can be caused by us or our closest surroundings and thus as well by certain sites or situations close to our bodies, but also attachments. Buda describes in her article how emotions (attachments) due to tensions between the Israeli and Jordanian tour guides caused the latters to dislike tours into Jordan for only a few days, as well as the increase in entrance fees to Petra.
The effects of emotions were also very clearly displayed by our guide to Jesus’ Baptism site, Rustom Mkhjian. The emotions he felt and which the site causes ran like a thread though the tour he gave us. He made clear very early on that the stories and the emotional attachments that the stories create, are what makes the site truly unique. The Jordan River, the Baptism site and the surrounding area is where the encounter of religions has taken place as it is the setting of numerous sacred stories for Christians, Jews and Muslims. Narrating parts of these sacred stories, telling us about the significance of the archeological sights and seeing churches pertaining to different religions, allowed the religious emotions to spill over to us toured. Furthermore, Rustom Mkhjian told us about his decision to stay in Jordan rather then go elsewhere for work because of the attachment he has to this site. This stressed again how a specific place and the emotions it causes affects the tourists who visit but also the locals who see it on a daily basis.
Finally, admitting that I am not a big expert in religious matters or very religious, I have to say that being told about the significance, the stories and visiting the Baptism site have brought up emotions of ease and hope in myself. I felt that while religions have been in conflict over centuries, Jesus’ Baptism site is the best example that there is place for all religions at the same time in the same place.

Dorina Maria Buda, Anne-Marie d’Hauteserre and Lynda Johnston ‘Feeling and tourism studies’ (2014) 46 102, 106-108.

John the Baptist Spring
One of the numerous churches around the Baptism Site,
pertaining to different religions

The River Jordan only centimeters from the border to the neighboring Israel.

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