Water tests indicate baptism site safe


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Bacteriological tests at a baptism site in the lower Jordan River indicate that the water is safe for the Christian holy rite.

The tests conducted Sunday by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority at the Qasr el Yahud site came after allegations that the water was too polluted to be safe for human bathing.

Israel’s Ministry of Health last week urged the Ministry of Tourism and the Nature and Parks Authority to ban baptism in the lower Jordan River due to the serious health risks from the highly polluted water.

Most of the river’s fresh water is diverted by Israel, Syria and Jordan; untreated sewage, agricultural runoff and saline water are returned in its place.

The Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria and the Health Ministry carry out quarterly routine checks on the water. A test in April also showed that the water met the Health Ministry’s safety standards, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Civil Administration, Tourism Ministry and Israel Nature and Parks Authority. 

Jesus is believed to have been baptized in the Jordan River by John, who immersed his followers to symbolize their purity before God. More than 100,000 tourists visit the site near Jericho each year.

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