Jordan Valley (Middle East)

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The Jordan Valley overlooking Lake Tiberias

The Jordan Valley (Hebrew: עֵמֶק הַיַרְדֵּן, Emek Hayarden; Arabic: الغور‎, Al-Ghor or Al-Ghawr) forms part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. It is 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, where it runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It runs for an additional 155 kilometer south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba, an area also known as Wadi Arabah or the Arava valley. It forms the border between Israel and Jordan in the north, and between the West Bank and Jordan in the south.[1]

Local government[edit]

In the late 1930s, the kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley formed the Council of the Gush, a regional municipal framework responsible for liaison with the authorities of the British Mandate. In the 1940s, this economic, cultural and security cooperation between the kibbutzim continued, and a regional school system was established. In 1949, the Jordan Valley Regional Council was formed, becoming the model for regional councils throughout Israel.[2]

Demography[edit]

The Jordanian population of the valley is over 85,000 people,[3] most of whom are farmers, and 80% of the farms in the Jordanian part of the valley are family farms no larger than 30 dunams (3 ha, 7.4 ac).[4]

Some 47,000 Palestinians live in the part of the valley that lies in the West Bank in about twenty permanent communities, most of them reside in the city of Jericho. Thousands of Bedouins also live in temporary communities.[5]

Date palms of Kibbutz Gesher, Jordan Valley

About 11,000 Israelis live in 17 kibbutzim that form part of the Emek HaYarden Regional Council in Israel,[6] while an additional 7,500 live in twenty-six Israeli settlements and five Nahal encampments that have been established in the part of the Jordan Valley that lies in the West Bank.[5][7] Prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, the valley's Jordanian side was home to about 60,000 people largely engaged in agriculture and pastoralism.[3] By 1971, the population had declined to 5,000 as a result of the 1967 war and the Black September in Jordan between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jordan.[3] Investments by the Jordanian government in the region allowed the population to rebound to over 85,000 by 1979.[3]

Prior to the Six-Day War, the valley was home to about 80,000 people largely engaged in agriculture and pastoralism.[3] In 1987, the Jordanian population of the valley was estimated at over 85,000 people,[3] mostly farmers. 80% of the farms in the Jordanian part of the valley were family farms no larger than 30 dunams (3 ha, 7.4 ac).[4] By 1971, the population had declined to 5,000 as a result of the war and the Black September in Jordan between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jordan.[3]

Since the end of the 1967 war, every Israeli government has considered the western Jordan Valley to be the eastern border of Israel with Jordan.[5] The 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan defines the international border between the countries on the Jordan River in the center of the Jordan valley.

Panorama of Jordan Valley

Demolitions and evictions[edit]

In the West Bank Area C, Israel has been steadily evicting Palestinian communities by demolishing their homes. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 172 such demolitions took place in 2012, affecting local Bedouin and Palestinian farming communities, and the number more than doubled in 2013, with 390 buildings razed, of which 156 were residential, and the remainder livestock pens, storage sheds and field kitchens. The Red Cross has provided tents for the evicted families, and replaced their materiel losses, but the policy of supplying tents was cancelled in February 2014 due to Israel's determination to continue to confiscate replacement housing. In the view of the European Union and international aid organizations, such demolitions constitute violations of the provisions of international law, in so far as Palestinians are a protected population living on land that has been occupied by Israel.[8]

Geography[edit]

Yardenit baptism site on the Jordan River

The northern part of the valley, known in Arabic as the Ghor (غور), includes the Jordan River. Several degrees warmer than adjacent areas, its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and water supply have made the Ghor a key agricultural area.[9] The Jordan River rises from several sources, mainly the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in Syria. It flows down into Lake Tiberias, 212 meters below sea level, and then drains into the Dead Sea.[9] South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley turns into the hot, dry southern part of the valley known as Wadi 'Araba, the "wilderness" or "Arabah desert" of the Bible.[9]

Agriculture[edit]

The Jordan Valley is several degrees warmer than adjacent areas, and its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and water supply made it a site for agriculture dating to about 10,000 years ago. By about 3000 BCE, produce from the valley was being exported to neighboring regions.[9]

The area's fertile lands were chronicled in the Old Testament.[9] Modern methods of farming have vastly expanded the agricultural output of the area.[9] The construction of the East Ghor Canal by Jordan in 1950s (now known as the King Abdullah Canal), which runs down the east bank of the Jordan Valley for 69 kilometers, has brought new areas under irrigation.[9] The introduction of portable greenhouses has brought about a sevenfold increase in productivity, allowing Jordan to export large amounts of fruit and vegetables year-round.[9]

According to agricultural consultant Samir Muaddi, the Civil Administration helps Palestinian farmers and the Palestinian agriculture ministry market their produce in Israel and ensure its quality. Seminars are held on modern agriculture, exposing the farmers to Israeli and international innovations.[10]

The Jordan River rises from several sources, mainly the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in Syria. It flows down into the Sea of Galilee, 212 meters below sea level, and then drains into the Dead Sea.[11] South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley turns into the hot, dry Arabah valley.[9]

Tourism[edit]

The area's fertile lands were chronicled in the Hebrew Bible, where it was the site of several miracles for the people of Israel, such as the Jordan River stopping its flow to allow the Jewish people, led by the Ark of the Covenant, to pass over. The Jordan River is revered by Christians as the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Jordan Valley during the Early Bronze Age
  2. ^ The Jordan Valley
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Jordan". Country Data. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  4. ^ a b Dana Charkasi (31 August 2000). "High tech may water Jordan Valley, but dry up family farming". Jordan Times. 
  5. ^ a b c B'tselem (13 February 2006). "Israel has de facto annexed the Jordan Valley". 
  6. ^ About Emek Hayarden R.C.
  7. ^ For more details, see Americans for Peace Now report on Jordan Valley settlements and related issues, Aug 7, 2008, http://peacenow.org/policy.asp?rid=&cid=5214
  8. ^ Amira Hass, 'Red Cross stops providing emergency tents to Palestinians in Jordan Valley,' Haaretz, February 6, 2014
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Touristic Sites: The Jordan Valley". The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 
  10. ^ Joining forces on agriculture
  11. ^ "Touristic Sites: The Jordan Valley". The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 

Coordinates: 32°19′02″N 35°34′12″E / 32.31722°N 35.57000°E / 32.31722; 35.57000