Postcard From Jordan Valley

Pollution and overuse have turned a sacred waterway into an open sewage pit, but there's hope for redemption. Resurrecting the Jordan River's holy waters

Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty

Revered in the Bible, the Jordan today is more brown and shallow than "deep and wide."

For centuries, the children of Abraham--Jews, Christians and Muslims alike--have venerated the Jordan River. So much so that "crossing over Jordan" has become a mystical metaphor for liberation and resurrection. These days, it's the river itself that could use some resurrecting. Instead of a mighty torrent "deep and wide," as the gospel songs proclaim, much of the river is a thin rivulet of brown slime largely obscured by reeds. Most of what now flows in between the Jordan's banks is human sewage, almost all of it untreated. The river where John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, a river...

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