The Jordan River Peace Park - a concrete first step towards rehabilitating the Jordan River, endorsed by the mayors and communities on both sides of the River
'The Jordan River Peace Park' is proposed to combine two adjacent areas; Al Bakoora / Naharayim, where a small island was created at the junction of the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers, and the Jeser Al Majama / Gesher site, known as the historical crossing point of the Jordan River Valley.

A portion of this proposed area already enjoys a special regime status, as stipulated in Article I(b) of the Jordan Israel Peace Treaty.

Al Bakoora / Naharayim: In 1927, Pinchas Rutenberg, a Russian immigrant and founder of the Palestine Electric Company (PEC), reached a unique agreement with HM King Abdullah I of Jordan to build the company's main hydroelectric power station. To this aim, canals and dams were built, creating a man made island, that harnessed the flow of the two rivers to produce electricity. By 1932 the hydroelectric power plant began supplying electricity on both sides of the river and continued to do so until it ceased operations as a result of the Israeli Arab hostilities of 1948. In 1994, with the signing of the Peace Treaty by Jordan and Israel, the island was returned to Jordan but was leased with special usage and visitation status to Israeli and international tourists. A tour is offered from the Israeli entrance at Naharayim, where one can cross to the island, catch a glimpse of the river beneath and see the remnants of the power station. Military personnel schedule and coordinate opening of the fences on both sides, allowing tens of thousands of visitors per year to enter the island without the need for a visa. This is an excellent example of a trans-boundary park that the municipalities propose to extend 2-3 kilometers down the meandering river to the Jeser Al Majama / Gesher site.

The Jeser Al Majama / Gesher site serves as a visual example of the Valley's historical crossing point and is of equal cultural importance to both countries. A Roman Bridge, built over 2000 years ago, was erected by Roman rulers connecting the cities of that period; Beit Shean (today in Israel), Pella and Um Quais (today in Jordan). An old Khan (inn) from the 14th century Mamluk period stands at the site, and represents a place where merchants and travelers passing on their way from east and west used to cross the river, stopping for a place to rest and feed their animals. During the Ottoman Empire period a railway bridge was built, connecting the Mediterranean port of Haifa with Damascus. In the 1920s, the British Mandate authorities added a third bridge, for motor vehicles, linking the area with Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee and Damascus in Syria.

Plans for the Peace Park include the re-flooding of the present day dry lake bed and creating a bird sanctuary. The lake will serve to attract the more than 500 million migratory birds that cross the Jordan River Valley twice annually. Developing bird watching facilities has great potential to bring a share of the estimated 60 million people in Europe and North America who spend time and money on this hobby to the region. Moreover, the old workers' homes located adjacent to the power plant, which were abandoned with the closing of the plant in 1948 and afford a magnificent view of the Jordan River and the lake could be renovated as an eco-lodge and the old power station converted into a visitors' center. The potential to develop the area for eco-tourism is outstanding due to the natural beauty of the area, where nature trails could be developed discreetly hidden on a side of the river bank enabling hikers, bikers and bird watchers to explore the 3 kilometer path of the valley from the island to the Jesser/Gesher compound. It is proposed that the park be developed in stages with phase 1 of the park being wholly in Jordan.

The creation of a protected area on both sides of the river will provide greater opportunities for biodiversity protection, cooperative management, joint research programs, education and collaboration on nature-based tourism. Although a border zone is understandably necessary, both Jordan and Israel have already created the precedent of opening the border fence for controlled guided tourism at several locations.

The development of the park will occur in stages.
Roughly, Stage I, II and III will see development of separate Jordanian and Israeli sections in a parallel manner, (the Bakoora Island, reflooding of the Lake, Gesher site, developing the eco lodges and the power plant into a Visitor's Center), that will lastly, at Stage IV, combine all areas together into a cross border park.

The Mayors of the Jordan Valley Regional Council (Israel), Beit Shean Valley Regional Council (Israel) and Muaz Bin Jabal Municipality (Jordan) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the Peace Park that would restore pride of place to the river valley and create new opportunities for the local populations.

Click here for a flyer on the Jordan River Peace Park, and a map of the vision.

You can view here a Power Point presentation on FoEME's efforts regarding the proposed peace park.