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Don't Drink the Water

The famous River Jordan, described as a raging or "violent" river in the Bible, is now just a sad trickle of raw sewage and agricultural runoff. Even on the site where John the Baptist performed the ritual on Jesus, Kasr Al-Yahud (near Jericho), the river is now "an opaque, brown, sluggish" mess.

Apparently, Israeli water diversions, started in the 1960s, have been a large reason for the ninety percent drop in flow over the years. However, Syria and Jordan are also to blame. Now, a planned, joint Syrian-Jordanian "Unity Dam" threatens to do even more damage by stopping the river's largest tributary, the Yarmuk, and possibly completely drying up the river in parts.

Rather than the "original" spot four miles north of the Dead Sea, most religious pilgrims have had to move their re-enactments of the baptism to Yardenit (near Alumot, near the Sea of Galilee), over 60 miles away to the north, to the only clean-water spot: a lonely 3km stretch on the 200km river.

Filed under: Arts and Culture, Hiking, History, Learning, Israel, Jordan

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