Saturday, August 06, 2011

The River Jordan

Leaving Galilee, we moved towards Jerusalem.  But we stopped at a few places before we actually arrived in Jerusalem.  We were driving through the famous West Bank (of the River Jordan).  The West Bank was under Ottoman rule for 400 years until World War I.   Following World War II, the UN allocated the area to the future Arab state for Palestinians.  In the war between Israel and Arab states following the independence of Israel in 1948, the area was captured by Jordan.  From 1948 to 1967, it was under Jordanian rule.  Then it was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. 

It is complicated history.  Will it become part of the Palestinian State, if and when it becomes independent?  Who knows? 


We stopped at the place where people believe Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  The river is quite narrow, no more than 20 meters wide.  Perhaps even less.  It separates present day Israel and Jordan.  The west side of the river belongs to Israel, and the east side, Jordan.   It looked like I could easily wade or swim across to the other side.   But I didn’t try.  I didn’t have the visa for entering Jordan. 


The border is sensitive area.  We had to pass through picket fences and a check point to get to the baptismal site.  The site had actually been closed for a long time, and was re-opened only a week before we got there. 


Much of the land on this side of the river is wilderness and desert.  There is very little water besides the River Jordan, and the land is dry and infertile.  John the Baptist was said to have been living in this area.  It must have been a difficult life. 


When I was about to leave, a soldier (Jordanian, I believe) came to the opposite (Jordanian) bank and seemed to be just looking around. 


Within a minute or two, a soldier (Israeli, I believe) came down our (Israeli) side and began to take pictures.   They were looking at each other, peacefully, more like tourists than soldiers.  Amazing.  When will this become the norm rather than the exception, between Israel and all the Arab countries?  Israelis want this area as historical Samaria and Judea.  Palestinians want this area as their own ancestral homeland.  How can this be resolved? 



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