‘Big Jump,’ an international environmental event, held Middle Eastern style. Israelis, Palestinians, including mayors, youth group leaders, jump into Jordan River in order to raise awareness of pollution in southern section

Yael Darel
Published: 08.20.10, 08:21 / Israel Activism

More than half a million people throughout Europe showed up in bathing suits next to a river last month and jumped in. No, they weren’t taking a break from the sweltering heat. They were partaking in an environmental event that has been around for 25 years already under the name “The Big Jump” seeking to raise awareness of the conditions of rivers worldwide.

The Israeli version of the event took place on Sunday in the southern part of the Jordan River. Dozens of activists made the jump, including Israeli and Palestinian youth groups and mayors from both sides of the Green Line concerned about the river. They built rafts together for this purpose.

Holy Site

This is the third time the Big Jump river swimming day was held at the Jordan River. The event is sponsored by EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization that has advocated the rehabilitation of the river, which has suffered a dramatic decrease in water and continued pollution from sewage dumped in it.

Recent research conducted by the organization on the matter shows that the southern section of the Jordan River is in difficult shape. In the past, 1.3 billion cubic meters of fresh water flowed through the river.

Jumping in water (Photo: Adi Gerlad)

However, today, there are just 30 million cubic meters, of which most of the water is from household and agricultural effluence dumped in the river, including insecticides and fertilizer. In addition, some of the waste originates from fish pools.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has called the area an “open sewage duct.”

The organization has claimed for quite some time that polluting the river destroys its natural and cultural legacy. The Big Jump event seeks to reclaim the river.

Israeli Director of EcoPeace Gidon Bromberg said, “We want to promote education, awareness of the importance of clean water in the Jordan River, tourism, and environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture. We want to see all the residents of the region proud again of the quality of life in the Jordan Valley. With this event, we join thousands of European citizens and call upon our heads of state to take intensive action to rehabilitate the Jordan River for all of us.”

Every year, more rivers join the European tradition and become jump sites. For instance, just last month, 11 rivers in Spain along participated in Big Jump.