Israeli Activists Urge Pope To Help Clean Up Jordan River

(Thousands of Christian pilgrims get baptized in Israel’s Jordan River every year. Are they risking their lives by immersing in the polluted waters?)

It’s the highlight of any Christian’s trip to Israel – a dunk in the Jordan River, the way Jesus did it thousands of years ago. But with increased pollution in Israel’s waterways, Israeli activists are using the Pope’s visit to Israel tomorrow to urge action on cleaning up the Jordan.

It is Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to Israel, and as many as 15,000 Catholic pilgrims are expected to descend on Israel to see the Pope in action. 

According to Christian belief, the Jordan River is the site of Jesus’s baptism; when pilgrims come to Israel (including my mother), they not only immerse themselves in the water, but take samples of it home for souvenirs.

But Zalul, Israel’s water  protection association, says that the water is extremely polluted. They said so in an open letter to the Pope this past Friday.

“Water from the once-proud Jordan River is being diverted for domestic and agricultural use, leaving the lower part of the river a shrivelled stream with little to no fresh water and filled with sewage,” the letter said. 

But those doing so now “risk their own health when entering the water.

“Your Holiness, all of the Jordan River’s visitors should have the right to be baptised in water that is natural and true,” activists from Zalul urged. 

On Sunday, the pope is to visit the Jordan baptismal site on the east side of the river. Let us pray for a clean river. And sign the petition at

Watch a video about the tragedy:

[youtube width=”525″ height=”400″][/youtube]

::AFP [image via jocelyndursten]

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14 thoughts on “Israeli Activists Urge Pope To Help Clean Up Jordan River”

  1. steven kenny says:

    from being a young lad its been my dream to get a baptism. in the river Jordan. it dos not have to be in the same spot as john the baptist was. but it would be good to be as close as possible! we are now in the year 2013 have they been any improvement made to the Jordan ?

  2. ruth says:

    The photos that appear at the beginning of this video are photos of Yardenit located on the southern bank of the Jordan River.Every year hundreds of thousands of Pilgrims come to Yardenit either to be be baptised or to renew their baptismal vows. At this site the water is flowing and is in pristine condition and the quality of the water is on a par with the water in the Sea of Galilee.The management of Yardenit has made certain that the water is safe for total immersion. Each week the local Water Authority of the Jordan Valley comes and performs extensive tests on the quality of the water and the results are sent both to the National Water Authority and also to the National Ministry of Health
    Yardenit applauds all environmentalists wanting a cleaner planet but we abhor generalizations. It is irresponsible, incorrect and maligning to say that the whole southern part of the Jordan is polluted and Yardenit will fight to save her reputation and name.
    No expert can give an exact location of where Jesus was baptised and the whole river is a site of baptism.

  3. Generally speaking, the Yardenit at the northernmost point of the Southern Jordan is clean and safe (as seen in the picture in this post). This is fine except most Christians do not recognize it as the true baptism site.

    If you follow the river 200 meters downstream, you will encounter two enormous pipes feeding hundreds and hundreds of cubic meters of wastewater from Tiberias into the river. I’ve seen it (and smelled it) myself and, trust me, you wouldn’t want to touch that water.

    From that point and onward, pretty much everyone feels that its okay to dump their wastewater into the river (the privelege of living downstream) – kibbutzim, factories, agricultural facilities.

    Another major hot spot is where the Herod River (or stream) enters the Jordan – mixing in all of it’s polluted water too.

    By the time you get to Qasar El Yehud and Bethany at the Jordan – which is where the Pope visited this week. The water is barely moving and it is almost entirely wastewater. There are signs all over the Israeli side of the river saying that entry into the water is prohibited. But it’s quite sad really, because this is the site that most believe Jesus was baptized. Now? Just a really gross polluted river.

    I’m happy to answer any questions by email as well: [email protected]

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  5. Yeah, it would be terrible to come out of the water baptised, and with an e-coli infection. Tragic.

    Israel and Jordan need to clean up their act.

    Hannah — is there any way for tourists to know where the water is most polluted? What are Zalul’s recommendations?

  6. Are there any numbers available for how polluted the Jordan is at various point along its length?

    I would imagine that the baptism spot (at Yardenit) would be relatively unpolluted, as it is only a few meters below the point where the river leaves the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).

    Whereas as it flows south, more and more sewage and agricultural run-offs flow into it.

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  8. Thanks for the post! We encourage everyone to sign our petition to the Pope at

    – Hannah and the Zalul Team

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