Daily Israel Report

Save the River: Bilateral 'Big Jump' into the Jordan

Jews and Arabs from both sides of the Jordan River took a “Big Jump” – hoping the splash will jump-start efforts to rehabilitate the river.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/15/2010, 4:13 PM / Last Update: 8/15/2010, 4:45 PM

Flash 90

Jews and Arabs from Israel and Jordan took a “Big Jump” into the Jordan River on Sunday morning – hoping the splash will jump-start efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River.

Many Israelis know the River Jordan, north of the Kinneret Sea (Sea of Galilee), as a beautiful, tree-lined, fun-filled stream whose strong currents can provide hours of kayaking and swimming pleasure. They are not aware that after it empties powerfully into the Kinneret Sea, and resumes its southward trek on the other side, it becomes barely more than a thin, brown, polluted stream of dirty water just a kilometer or two later.

Why? The blame is shared equally among towns in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority, all of which allow their sewage waters to stream into the holy river. In addition, a dam just south of the Kinneret diverts water away from its Dead Sea destination, towards the nearby farming villages and their crops.

Today’s jump at the Yardenit site, near Deganya at the southern end of the Kinneret Sea, featured mayors, municipal representatives, adults and youth from both sides of the Jordan River. They first built rafts to test the flow, and then jumped into the river together for a refreshing swim-with-a-message.

The event was organized by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), based on an initiative known as the European Big Jump for Living Rivers held on July 11. That event featured 250 official big jumps and 400 private jumps into rivers in 20 European countries – an attempt to generate grassroots support for restoration efforts for rivers and wetlands.

With offices in Tel Aviv, Amman and Bethlehem, FoEME recently published a report and plan to save the Jordan River. It calls on Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to work together and return fresh water, including 25% recycled sewage water, to the Jordan south of the Kinneret. The organization says that despite reports that the river could actually run dry by next year, this outcome could be avoided if their recommendations are accepted.

Among the reports issued by FoEME are these: Identifying Common Environmental Problems and Shared Solutions, Good Water Neighbors, Economic Valuation of Resuscitating the Dead Sea, Let the Dead Sea Live, FoEME Report on the Proposed Red Dead Conduit. Warning: Google warns that the FoEME site may harm your computer - and from this reporter's experience, the warning is sound.