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Keeping The Jordan River Holy For Generations To Come

The Jordan River is not what you imagined it to be.

What was once a crossroads of civilizations and continents, where John the Baptist first baptized Jesus Christ and the Israelites crossed into the Holy Land, is now a river suffering greatly from pollution.  The Jordan River remains today one of the holiest sites in Christanity and holds great significance for Jews as well.  Christian pilgrims from all over the world and from all walks of life come to the Jordan River in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps – many have saved money their whole lives for the opportunity.

Facts About the Jordan River

  • —The Southern Jordan River flows 217 kilometers (135 miles) from the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) to the Dead Sea along the Jordan Valley floor.
  • — Until the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jordan River had a flow of 1.3 billion cubic meters (317 billion gallons) of clean water each year.
  • —480 million cubic meters (126 billion gallons) came from the Sea of Galilee
  • —470 million cubic meters (124 billion gallons) came from the Yarmuk River in Syria.

With the establishment of the State of Israel and the National Water Carrier, water was taken from the Sea of Galilee and a dam was built to block water from flowing to the Jordan River.  The Syrians and Jordanians were also quick to build dams along the Yarmuk River and began to use the water for agriculture.

The result was immediate.  The Jordan River began to slowly die and the water level in the Dead Sea began to drop.

Today the Southern Jordan is a river of polluted wastewater coming from regional kibbutzim – Afikim, Ashdot Yaakov, Menachamia, Beit Zera and more.  Veteran kibbutzniks tell tales of when it used to be possible to swim in the river, but today none of them would even come close to the, quite literally, stinky water.  The regional council has sworn for years to build a local waste water treatment plant, but it has yet to happen.

Next to the King Hussein bridge and border crossing between Israel and Jordan, the polluted Herod River flows into the Jordan River.  The Herod River’s pollution comes from Herod Valley kibbutzim, wastewater from factories, the city of Beit Shean and wastewater from fish hatchery pools.  In the upcoming months, the Beit Shean wastewater treatment plant is meant to begin functioning, but this will not solve the other pollution problems of the Herod River from entering into the Jordan River.

One of the areas along the river with the poorest water quality is the baptism site of Qasar El Yehud.

  • —At this point the river is a mere 5 meters (16 feet) wide instead of its     average 10 meters (32 feet)
  • —The rate of water flow is approximately 40 cm/sec (1.3 feet/sec).
  • —The river is primarily wastewater (treated and untreated) and used water from fish hatchery pools.
  • —A number of monasteries and churches exist along this section of the river and they are regularly visited by pilgrims coming to be baptized, primarily during holidays.  These pilgrims entering the river do so at great risk to their health.

Returning the Jordan River to a healthy state and giving this incredibly holy site the respect it deserves requires removing the polluters along the entire length of the river on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the river.  We must end the flow of polluted water from the Herod River into the Jordan and demand to renew the flow of clean water to rehabilitate the plants and wildlife and to allow for safe baptisms.

Zalul Environmental Association is taking it upon ourselves to save the Jordan River demanding that the polluted water entering the river be replaced with clean water.  With an excellent track record of successes to bring change and renewal to the rivers of Israel, Zalul will not turn away until our vision is complete.

Help us save the Jordan River and keep it holy for generations to come.

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