I grew up going to Disney World, so I’m used to perfect scenarios designed to capture the imagination of tourists. Disney accomplishes this with carefully sculpted artificial landscapes, animatronic actors, and Hollywood-style special effects. In Israel, the perfect scenarios seem to happen without apparent orchestration—well, at least without apparent human orchestration.
One example of this was when we visited the baptismal site of Yardenit, located on the Jordan river where it empties out of the Sea of Galilee. It’s doubtful whether this is the actual site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, but countless pilgrims go there every year to be baptized in the same river as their Savior. As I paused to snap a few pictures of the river, I saw a white dove flying back and forth over the water. I managed to capture this blurry image:
Of course, the presence of a white dove at a Jordan baptismal site provides a vivid reminder of Jesus’ baptism:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?”
Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him to be baptized.
After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him! (Matthew 3:13–17 HCSB)
Another place where I caught sight of a white dove was in the archway of the Double Gate at the southern end of the Temple Mount. The arch was added at a later time, but it preserves the location of a Herodian gate through which pilgrims would begin their ascent to the temple courts above. A series of grand processional steps leads up to the Double Gate, and it is quite possible that Jesus ascended those steps and passed through that gate.
If this had been Disney World, I would have thought those doves had been placed there by design as a symbol of Jesus’ divinity, or of His ongoing presence through the Holy Spirit, or as a reminder to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Who knows?
Perhaps Israel has an artificially large population of white doves as a result of their being released at special events over the years. Whatever the reason for their serendipitous presence, they added a symbolic significance Walt Disney would have been proud of.