Sunday, May 9, 2010
if it were holy, would we treat it like sh#$%?
Why do folks hang on to romantic mythic stories about ancient peoples and places yet ignore the contemporary realities of those places and the people who live there now, the descendants? Why do we continue to imagine things as they were in the past, rather than confront what we've made of these places and their peoples today? Live in these romantic headspaces that do not exist except in our own imaginings, serving our own needs?
People read about the Jordan River in the Bible, putting its sacredness into their archive of religiosity, yet are completely and utterly blind to what the Jordan River is in its material form rather than their mythic imaginings.
Although we imagine the Jordan River as the image above, in fact, it is "one of the world's 100 most endangered ecological sites." This once holy river is little more than a meek depleted cesspool that is deteriorating at an alarming rate. The flow of the River Jordan has been reduced by 95% over the last 50 years. Half of the flow of the river is raw sewage and agricultural runoff.
Today I read that "Some three million cubic meters of untreated sewage per year pours into the river from Beit Shea'an Municipality in Israel, despite the fact that Israel is considered a leading country in the region in terms of sewage treatment, Bromberg said." [Gideon Bromberg, the Israeli director of FOEME, the Jordan River Project of Friends of the Earth Middle East]
How's that for holy? As in holy shit, I think. Baptism by fecal coliform doesn't sound too sacred to me. The same Ma'an article reports that:
"Israel diverts the highest amount from the river, 46.47 percent, Syria draws 25.24 percent, Jordan 23.24 percent, and the PA only 5.05 percent. The report said the PA must receive its fair share."
I guess we can't blame the Palestinians for this (un)holy mess.
"What was once the narrowest stretch of the river has now become its widest. In some spots, the Jordan is only a trickle. Otters and other creatures that used to live on its banks are long gone" and "You can almost jump across this river. In other places, you don't need to even jump — you can just cross it. It's ankle deep," said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, the organization that commissioned the report. "You struggle to see the water."
Not only are we lost in bygone tales in books of myth, preventing us from knowing what is actually happening, but also "The condition of the Jordan is invisible to the world at large because much of the area is a closed military zone. Fences and mines keep the public away from the area near the river." This author forgot to mention whose closed military zone it is. Whose fences and mines keep people out?
Hand-colored postcard of the River Jordan, circa 1925, by Karimeh Abbud, an early female Palestinian photographer.