Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Jordan River

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251 km

Anti-Lebanon Mountains

Source elevation
80 m

Jordan River httpsi2wpcomwwwseetheholylandnetwpconten

- left
- right
Hasbani or Snir River (Lebanon and Israel), Iyyon Stream (Lebanon and Israel)

- location
Anti-Lebanon Mountain Range at Mount Hermon, Golan Heights

Jordan, Israel, State of Palestine, West Bank

Allenby Bridge, Jordan River Crossing, Daughters of Jacob Bridge, Damia Bridge, Jordan River Bridge

Jordan river

The Jordan River (also River Jordan; Hebrew: נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּןNahar ha-Yarden; Arabic: نَهْر الْأُرْدُنّ‎‎ Nahr al-Urdun, Ancient Greek: Ιορδάνης, Iordànes) is a 251-kilometre (156 mi)-long river in the Middle East that flows roughly north to south through the Sea of Galilee and on to the Dead Sea. Israel and the West Bank border the river to the west, while the Golan Heights and Jordan lie to its east. Both Jordan and the West Bank take their names from the river.


Map of Jordan River

The river has a major significance in Judaism and Christianity and, to a more moderate degree, Islam, as the site where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land and where Jesus of Nazareth was baptised by John the Baptist.

Sea of galilee and the jordan river


The Jordan River has an upper course (from its sources to the Sea of Galilee) and a lower one (beyond the Sea of Galilee and down to the Dead Sea). In traditional terminology, the upper course (or most of it) is commonly referred to as passing through the "Hula Valley", and not the "upper Jordan Valley"; the Sea of Galilee through which the river passes is a separate entity; and the term Jordan Valley is reserved for the lower course. In this sense, the (actually in its entirety "lower") Jordan Valley may be separated into upper, central and lower Jordan Valley.

Over its upper course, the river drops rapidly in a 75-kilometre (47 mi) run to the once large and swampy Lake Hula, which is slightly above sea level. Exiting the now much diminished lake, it goes through an even steeper drop over the 25 kilometres (16 mi) down to the Sea of Galilee, which it enters at its northern end. The Jordan deposits much of the silt it is carrying within the lake, which it leaves again near its southern tip. At that point the river is situated about 210 metres below sea level. The last 120-kilometre (75 mi)-long section follows what is commonly termed the "Jordan Valley", which has less gradient (the total drop is another 210 metres) so that the river meanders before entering the Dead Sea, a terminal lake about 422 metres below sea level with no outlet. Two major tributaries enter from the east during this last section: the Yarmouk River and Zarqa River.

Its section north of the Sea of Galilee (Hebrew: כנרת Kinneret, Arabic: Bohayrat Tabaraya, meaning Lake of Tiberias) is within the boundaries of Israel, and forms the western boundary of the Golan Heights. South of the lake, it forms the border between the Kingdom of Jordan (to the east), and Israel (to the west).


The streams coming together to create the River Jordan in its upper basin are, west to east:

  • Iyyon (Hebrew: עיון Iyyon, Arabic: دردره Dardara or براغيث Braghith – on old PEF maps (1871–77) as Wadi el-Kharrar in the Merj 'Ayun area and Nahr Bareighit in its lower part), a stream which flows from Lebanon.
  • Hasbani (Arabic: الحاصباني Hasbani, Hebrew: either שניר Snir or Hatzbani), a stream which flows from Mount Lebanon.
  • Dan (Hebrew: דן Dan, Arabic: اللدان Leddan), a stream whose source is also at the base of Mount Hermon.
  • Banias (Arabic: بانياس Banias, Hebrew: either Banias or חרמון Hermon), a stream arising from a spring at Banias at the foot of Mount Hermon.
  • South of the Sea of Galilee the Jordan River receives the waters of further tributaries, the main ones being

  • Yarmouk River
  • Zarqa River
  • Smaller tributaries in this segment are

  • Wadi al-Far'a
  • Wadi Qelt
  • History

    In the 19th century the River Jordan and the Dead Sea were explored by boat primarily by Christopher Costigan in 1835, Thomas Howard Molyneux in 1847, William Francis Lynch in 1848, and John MacGregor in 1869. The full text of W. F. Lynch's 1849 book Narrative of the United States' Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea is available online.

    In 1964, Israel began operating a pumping station that diverts water from the Sea of Galilee to the National Water Carrier. Also in 1964, Jordan constructed a channel that diverted water from the Yarmouk River, another main tributary of the Jordan River to the East Ghor Canal. Syria has also built reservoirs that catch the Yarmouk's waters. Environmentalists blame Israel, Jordan and Syria for extensive damage to the Jordan River ecosystem.

    In modern times, the waters are 70% to 90% used for human purposes and the flow is greatly reduced. Because of this and the high evaporation rate of the Dead Sea, as well as industrial extraction of salts through evaporation ponds, the sea is shrinking. All the shallow waters of the southern end of the sea have been drained in modern times and are now salt flats.

    A small section of the northernmost portion of the Lower Jordan, the first ca. 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) below the Sea of Galilee, has been kept pristine for baptism and local tourism. Most polluted is the 100-kilometre downstream stretch—a meandering stream from above the confluence with the Yarmouk to the Dead Sea. Environmentalists say the practice of letting sewage and brackish water flow into the river has almost destroyed its ecosystem. Rescuing the Jordan could take decades, according to environmentalists. In 2007, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) named the Jordan River as one of the world's 100 most endangered ecological sites, due in part to lack of cooperation between Israel and neighboring Arab states. The same environmentalist organization had said in a report that the Jordan River could dry up by 2011 unless the decay is stopped. The flow rate of the Jordan River once was 1.3 billion cubic metres per year; as of 2010, just 20 to 30 million cubic metres per year flow into the Dead Sea. For comparison, the total amount of desalinated water produced by Israel by 2012 was estimated to be about 500 million cubic metres per year.

    Roads, border crossings, bridges

    Route 90, part of which is named after Rehavam Zeevi, connects the northern and southern tips of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and parallels the Jordan River on the western side.

    There are two border crossings between Israel and Jordan which cross the river over bridges. The northern one, Jordan River Crossing or Sheikh Hussein Bridge is near Beit She'an; the southern one, Allenby Bridge (also King Hussein Bridge), is near Jericho.

    From the bridges crossing the river within Israel, the most famous one is the Bnot Ya'akov Bridge (Hebrew: Gesher Bnot Ya'akov, "Daughters of Jacob Bridge").

  • Arik Bridge at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee; allows access to the central Golan Heights, was crucial in the 1967 and 1973 wars
  • Al-Sinnabra at the spot where the river used to exit the Sea of Galilee in the past; few remains excavated by archaeologists
  • Jisr el-Majami' north of Beit She'an/Beisan; closed
  • Damiya or Adam Bridge halfway between Jericho and Beit She'an; closed
  • Another closed bridge is the King Abdullah Bridge south of the Allenby Bridge.

    Importance as a water source

    The waters of the Jordan River are the second largest water resource for Israel, desalination of sea water from the Mediterranean being the first. Israel's National Water Carrier, completed in 1964, delivers water from the Sea of Galilee to the Israeli coastal plain.

    Jordan receives 50,000,000 cubic metres (1.8×109 cu ft) of water from the river, a quantity which is regulated by the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. This water is pumped out of the river at its exit from the Sea of Galilee and directed through a pipeline to Jordan.

    Conflict about the waters of the Jordan River was a contributing factor to the Six-Day War when, starting in 1965, Syria attempted to divert some of its headwaters in collaboration with Lebanon and Jordan. The diversion works would have reduced the water availability for Israel's carrier by about 35%, and Israel's overall water supply by about 11%. In April 1967 Israel conducted air raids into Syria to halt this work, and two months later the Six Day War followed. The use of Jordan River's water was cited as a cause of the war by Ariel Sharon, who said,

    People generally regard June 5, 1967, as the day the Six Day War began. That is the official date, but in reality it started two and a half years earlier on the day Israel decided to act against the diversion of the Jordan River.

    Hebrew Bible

    In the Hebrew Bible the Jordan is referred to as the source of fertility of a large plain ("Kikkar ha-Yarden"), said to be watered like "the garden of the LORD" (Genesis 13:10). There is no regular description of the Jordan in the Bible; only scattered and indefinite references to it are given. Jacob crossed it and its tributary, the Jabbok (the modern Al-Zarqa), on his way back from Haran (Genesis 32:11, 32:23–24). It is noted as the line of demarcation between the "two tribes and the half tribe" settled to the east (Numbers 34:15) and the "nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh" that, led by Joshua, settled to the west (Joshua 13:7, passim).

    Opposite Jericho, it was called "the Jordan of Jericho" (Numbers 34:15; 35:1). The Jordan has a number of fords, and one of them is famous as the place where many Ephraimites were slain by Jephthah (Judges 12:5–6). It seems that these are the same fords mentioned as being near Beth-barah, where Gideon lay in wait for the Midianites (Judges 7:24). In the plain of the Jordan, between Succoth and Zarthan, is the clay ground where Solomon had his brass-foundries (1 Kings 7:46).

    In biblical history, the Jordan appears as the scene of several miracles, the first taking place when the Jordan, near Jericho, was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua (Joshua 3:15–17). Later the two tribes and the half tribe that settled east of the Jordan built a large altar on its banks as "a witness" between them and the other tribes (Joshua 22:10, 22:26, et seq.). The Jordan was crossed by Elijah and Elisha on dry ground (2 Kings 2:8, 2:14). God thrived through Elisha performing two other miracles at the Jordan: God healed Naaman by having him bathe in its waters, and he made the axe head of one of the "children of the prophets" float, by throwing a piece of wood into the water (2 Kings 5:14; 6:6).

    New Testament

    The New Testament states that John the Baptist baptised unto repentance in the Jordan (Matthew 3:5–6; Mark1:5; Luke 3:3; John1:28). These acts of Baptism are also reported as having taken place at Bethabara (John 1:28).

    Jesus came to be baptised by him there (Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21, 4:1). The Jordan is also where John the Baptist bore record of Jesus as the Son of God and Lamb of God (John 1:29–36).

    The prophecy of Isaiah regarding the Messiah which names the Jordan (Isaiah 9:1–2) is also reported in Matthew 4:15.

    The New Testament speaks several times about Jesus crossing the Jordan during his ministry (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1), and of believers crossing the Jordan to come hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases (Matthew 4:25; Mark 3:7–8). When his enemies sought to capture him, Jesus took refuge at Jordan in the place John had first baptised (John 10:39–40).

    Evidence from scriptures and archaeological findings has concluded that the site called Al-Maghtas on the Jordanian side is the most accurate location for the Baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John. This has led to choosing Al-Maghtas as a UNESCO World Heritage site, which took place in 2015.

    Cultural significance

    The Jordan is a frequent symbol in folk, gospel, and spiritual music, and in poetic and literary works.

    Because the Israelites made a difficult and hazardous journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in The Promised Land, the Jordan can refer to freedom. The actual crossing is the final step of the journey, which is then complete.

    Because of the baptism of Jesus, water from the Jordan is employed for the christening of heirs and princes in several Christian royal houses, such as the cases of Prince George of Cambridge, Simeon of Bulgaria or James Ogilvy.

    The baptism of Jesus is referred to in a hymn by the reformer Martin Luther, "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" (1541), base for a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7 (1724).

    The Jordan River, due primarily to its rich spiritual importance, has provided inspiration for countless songs, hymns, and stories, including the traditional African-American spiritual/folk songs "Michael Row the Boat Ashore", "Deep River", and "Roll, Jordan, Roll". It is mentioned in the songs "Eve of Destruction", "Will You Be There", and "The Wayfaring Stranger" and in "Ol' Man River" from the musical Show Boat. "The Far Side Banks Of Jordan" by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash on June's Grammy Award-winning studio album, Press On, mentions the Jordan River as well as The Promised Land. Jordan River is also the subject of roots reggae artist Burning Spear's song of the same title.


    Jordan River Wikipedia