Today, driving from Nazareth, we passed through the foothills of the Samarian mountains (or hills depending upon perspective) to the north of the Jordan Valley. Near our route lay the town of Nablus which famously is the home to Jacob’s well. While Nablus didn’t mean much to most folks on the trip, Jacob’s well certainly did. Immediately when hearing we were near Jacob’s well, the story of the Jesus and the Samaritan woman came to mind. “Everyone who drinks from this well will be thirsty again, but the those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (John 4:13-14).
The right to water denotes an essential issue to those in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, and must be fully, justly addressed if a lasting peace is to be reached. Water rights are, as we have learned today, an aspect of international concern and human rights where Israel has acted and is acting in horrendous manners.
Israel and Palestine are in semi-arid climates, so fresh, clean water isn’t exactly plentiful. Potable water comes only from the Sea of Galilee and two underground aquifers, located in the north and south of the West Bank. Fresh water flows out of the Sea of Galilee via the Jordan River, terminating in the Dead Sea. Here ends the all to brief geography lesson.
To supply the populous and growing Israeli cities on the Mediterranean Sea, such as Tel Aviv, the government has built massive pumping stations and pipelines. These projects to benefit the Israeli’s have dropped the water levels in the Sea of Galilee to extremely low levels. Speaking of low water levels, to anyone thinking the famed Jordan River is similar to the mighty Mississippi, think again. According to our guide, “the Jordan is more like a ‘Miss-i-pippi’ than a Mississippi!” Literally, many would call the Jordan a creek even at its beginning and a small, shallow stream as it wanders further south.
Israel controls the Jordan River. Accords and agreements have been reached between Israel and Jordan (the country on the east bank of the river) throughout the decades. These agreements, however, are not fair and are not followed. When there is no rain, Israel essentially gives no water. At one point, to meet their water quota to Jordan, it is said Israel turned to sending untreated sewage water.
Continuing the unjust and unfair control of water, Israel maintains control of the underground aquifers beneath Palestine. Israeli farmers receive subsidized water from the Israeli government; Palestinian farmers do not. Israeli homes have a continuous and pressurized flow of water; Palestinians do not. The farmers in Palestine have taken to planting almost nothing but olive groves on the little land they have because olive trees are drought resistant and require no irrigation. In towns and villages, the easiest way of determining if a home belongs to an Israeli or a Palestinian is whether or not there are large, black water tanks on the roof. In a nutshell, Palestinians cannot and do not trust in or rely upon the Israeli government for water.
From our guide in the Jordan Valley, “If there is water, there is life. If there is no water, there is no life. We can hear water running in the pipes; water from our own villages, but we cannot drink it. We could have peace if we could at least drink from the same water pipe.”
Living water is a gift from God. Giving access to water to live is a responsibility that must be acknowledged, respected, and enacted for life and for peace.