This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
Christians, Jews and Muslims all
consider the Jordan River holy. Last week, Pope Benedict visited the place where
John the Baptist is believed to have baptized Jesus in its waters. The leader
of the world's Roman Catholics blessed the cornerstones of two churches to be
built next to the river.
was the first stop on a Middle East trip in which he also visited Israel and
the Palestinian territories.
Israeli environmental organization Zalul has appealed to the pope and other
world leaders to help save what it calls the "world's most holy river."
The Jordan River is polluted and in danger of going dry. The World Monuments
Fund placed the river on its two thousand eight watch list of one hundred most
The Jordan is more than three hundred
kilometers long. It begins in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria. It ends at
the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, four hundred meters below the level of
the Mediterranean Sea.
The southern part of the river forms the
border between Jordan and Israel and includes part of the Palestinian
of the Earth Middle East is an organization of activists from Israel, Jordan
and the territories. The group began as "EcoPeace" in nineteen
ninety-four in Egypt.
Nader Al-Khateeb, the Palestinian director
of the group, says the Jordan has lost freshwater sources. There has been little
rain for five years. At the same time, populations along the banks of the river
are growing. That increases demand for water.
Political tensions and conflict have made it difficult
to deal with the problems. Members of Friends of the Earth Middle East say the Jordan
could run dry unless something is done.
the Jordan River is saved, they say, then the Dead Sea could also be brought
back to life. The Dead Sea lost thirty-three percent of its surface area during
the last half-century.
There have been several proposals to
pump water into the Dead Sea from the Red Sea or the Mediterranean. But Friends
of the Earth Middle East says that would cost too much and could damage the
The group has
simpler ideas -- like reducing water use at schools and other buildings in
Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Other ideas including harvesting
whatever rain does fall and sharing water. But most importantly, the activists hope
Israel, Jordan and Syria can create an international commission to manage the
that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.