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Jordan called ‘too polluted’ for baptisms
Judith Sudilovsky, Religion News Service/ENInews
July 29, 2010
2 MIN READ TIME

Jordan called ‘too polluted’ for baptisms

Jordan called ‘too polluted’ for baptisms
Judith Sudilovsky, Religion News Service/ENInews
July 29, 2010

JERUSALEM — Concerns about

pollution and water quality have prompted an environmental advocacy group to

call for the banning of baptisms in the lower Jordan River, where the Bible

says Jesus was baptized.

“For reasons of public

health as well as religious integrity, baptism should be banned from taking

place in the river,” said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of

EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Israeli authorities said July

27 that tests done on the water of the lower Jordan River show the popular site

for baptismal ceremonies at Qasr el Yahud on the West Bank meets health

ministry standards.

Bromberg, however, said the

ceremonies should not take place until pollutants are removed from the water.

The site, inside an Israeli

controlled military zone, faces another baptismal site on Jordan’s side of the

river. Both sites attract pilgrims who come to the Holy Land, and both are

claimed as the authentic site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

“Our call is to halt

baptisms on both sides of the river. It is exactly the same polluted water,”

said Bromberg.

Bromberg’s group says the

river suffers from “severe mismanagement,” including the diversion of 98

percent of its fresh water to Israel, Syria and Jordan, as well as the

discharge of untreated sewage and agricultural run-off.

The baptismal site on the

Israeli side of the river was closed for one day on Monday but reopened on

Tuesday, Bromberg said, while the Jordanian side was never closed; Jordan has

not responded to the environmental group’s claims.

“If the same thing were

happening to a Jewish or Muslim holy site there would be a public outcry,”

Bromberg said.