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Sea of Galilee, Israel

  Muki Zur


Muki Zur, kibbutz resident

Like their biblical forefathers, the people of the Ein Gev kibbutz learned to work the waters of the Sea of Galilee.

"This kibbutz, my home really, was created by the conflict between the desert and the water, between the earthquake and the hope of the lake," says resident Muki Zur. "This perhaps reflects the whole Creation — a small lake besieged by the mountains, a danger of desert, of desertation, and, in the north, the very far north, a hope of winter."

In the beginning they were tempted by the abundance of fish and almost depleted the lake. But they eventually saw their error. Today, the size of their catch is carefully managed and supplemented by an expanding fish farm industry.


Lana Abu Hijaleh

Jericho is a city of 12,000 people, and now the expectations are so many Palestinian returnees will be coming backů there are a lot of restraints on the resources in Jericho City. Jericho is one of the few cities in the Palestinian Territories where it depends on springs and on the underground water. In the past, it used to have access to the Jordan River, but after the '67 War this access was denied totally.

Water is considered a common commodity for people, they feel a right to use it, and nobody is allowed to restrict their access to it. So people are willing to protect it with their own lives, actually.

Shimon Peres

Water, contrary to land, is undisciplined in political terms. The water moves in the stomach of the land from one place to another place without following the borders, without following man's divisions. Even the rains don't go through the customs. Now, unless politics will attune itself to the demands of nature, namely, to use correctly the sources of water, to distribute it as it is needed, to keep the land fertile our children will live in a desert and the desert is the father of poverty and of want.

We have to provide our children with the flow of water as a promise of their future and not to look anymore upon water as upon a gun, or a plane or a tank.

On the 9,000-foot slopes of Israel's Mount Hermon, which rise precipitously out of a barren wilderness, snow is an almost forgotten treasure. But melting snow on Mount Hermon is the source of the river Jordan. Soon joined by the streams of Lebanon and Syria, the river gathers volume. When the Jordan finally enters the legendary Sea of Galilee, it is almost 700 feet below sea level. The lake is also a reservoir, supplying one third of Israel's water needs.

Looming above the Galilee are the Golan Heights, a commanding military position over the sea and the Jordan River. Syria's threat to divert the waters of the Jordan was one of the reasons for the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. With victory, Israel claimed the Heights and won complete control of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

Today, very little of the lake's precious water is allowed to escape. What little that is released into the lower Jordan River winds slowly through isolated farms, all competing for the sustaining waters of the same thin blue line before ends its hundred and twenty mile journey at the Dead Sea. More than thirteen hundred feet below sea level, this is the lowest point on the earth. Seven times saltier than the ocean, very little lives within its waters.

[The Jordan River] flows in a part of the world where the health of a river is influenced by politics as well as by the environment.

Compared to most of the world's rivers, the Jordan is insignificant. More water flows down the Amazon in an hour than flows down the Jordan in a year. But this river, marking the border between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan, flows in a part of the world where the health of a river is influenced by politics as well as by the environment.

Once, over two thousand years ago, parts of the desert were lush, when the Nabatean tribes found ways to support tens of thousands of settlers on very little rain. But over the centuries, these ancient technologies were lost. Recently, scientists discovered their secrets.

Video Excerpt: Compared to most of the world's rivers, the Jordan is insignificant. More water flows down the Amazon in an hour than flows down the Jordan in a year. But the Jordan River flows in a part of the world where the health of a river is influenced by politics as well as by the environment.
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The Nabateans, who lived in the region from 300 BCE to 200 CE, discovered that the desert soil had an unusual property. When it rained, the soil formed a hard crust that allowed water to be channeled into cisterns. With as little as a fifth of an inch of rain, the equivalent of ten inches could be collected. Unfortunately, the water collecting methods of the Nabateans is no longer adequate to sustain the exploding population of the Middle East.

Amman, the sprawling capital of the Kingdom of Jordan with a rich cultural history dating back six thousand years, is now a modern city of just over a million people. The vitality of the street life gives no hint that a growing population is consuming water at an alarming rate. But it is in Jordan's countryside that signs of a serious water crisis become apparent. Farmers desperately try to coax crops from the arid land. Deep wells are depleting much of the underground water supply, and what little remains is often undrinkable.

Israeli soldier in Jerusalem

Israeli soldier in Jerusalem

Forty miles from these water-starved villages is the city of Jerusalem, the spiritual home of Western Civilization. To enter the gates of the old city is to step back in time. For thousands of years, the holy land has suffered the stings of political fervor. Despite all its problems, Jerusalem continues to beckon the faithful of three great religions. It's still a cradle of hope. If lasting peace is to come to the Middle East, those who decide its fate know that water must be a shared resource.



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