Gidon Bromberg, Yana Abu Taleb, and Nada Majdalani on The Place of Jesus’ Baptism is in Danger of Disappearing

An Oral Roberts University student reacts after being baptized in the Jordan River on Saturday May 23, 2015. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair)

About one million Christian pilgrims, every year, come from all over the world to be baptized in the Jordan River. At the baptism site called ‘Qaser el Yehud’ on the West Bank, and ‘Al-Maghtas’ on the Jordanian east side of this holy river, Christian tradition teaches that John the Baptist baptized Jesus after which the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus.

Today, the Jordan River would not be recognizable to John the Baptist or Jesus.

When Jesus was baptized, this river was clean, fast-flowing and over a hundred yards wide. Throughout the centuries, the diaries of Christian pilgrims even expressed concern of drowning in the Jordan, should they be carried away by its strong waters. When U.S. Admiral William Lynch organized an expedition down the Jordan in 1848, he recorded in his diary the dangers of navigation — a waterfall had destroyed one of the four boats on his journey.

Today a hamster wheel would hardly turn in what is left of this river that now barely connects the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The river is barely four yards wide or less, and desperately polluted.

Over the last 50 years, much due to the Arab / Israeli conflict, 95 percent of the fresh water that used to flow down the river has been diverted by Israel, Syria and Jordan. The river border is mined and fenced, and rather than fresh water flowing, a combination of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian raw or poorly treated sewage, fishpond waste, agricultural return flow and diverted saline springs, are what feed what is left of the once Mighty River Jordan.

Since 2005, EcoPeace Middle East, together with local residents and mayors, have led the call to rehabilitate the river, with success. Religious leaders representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam joined the effort, signing on to a new Jordan River Covenant that calls for the river’s rehabilitation. Efforts have been further assisted by a 2007 resolution unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate, calling on Israelis, Palestinian and Jordanians to work together towards river rehabilitation.

Despite continuing regional conflict, inspiring progress is being achieved. Over $100 million has been invested in the building of new sanitation infrastructure to remove some of the river’s sewage. The Israel Water Authority started releasing clean water into the river from the Sea of Galilee in 2014, the first time in 49 years. With European Union support, the first ever master plan for the river and the valley was prepared, uniquely bringing together Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian ministerial level participants. Under their peace treaty arrangements, Israel and Jordan even created a river rehabilitation working group.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Gidon Bromberg, Yana Abu Taleb, and Nada Majdalani