It’s the patch of water where, legend has it, John the Baptist washed Jesus clean. And these days, it’s filthy. Thanks to “severe mismanagement,” the Jordan River is now too polluted for baptisms, an environmentalist group declared this week. Though the Israeli health ministry says the water is up to standards, the group says untreated sewage and agricultural run-off have made the river unsafe.
“For reasons of public health as well as religious integrity, baptism should be banned” in the river, the group’s Israeli director said. “If the same thing were happening to a Jewish or Muslim holy site there would be a public outcry.” Baptisms are common both on the Israeli side of the river, and across the bank in Jordan. “Our call is to halt baptisms on both sides,” the director said. “It is exactly the same polluted water.”