June 10, 2007 – Jordan River Declared a World Endangered Cultural Heritage Site


New York, Tel-Aviv and Amman, June 10, 2007

On Wednesday, June 6, 2007 the World Monuments Fund, the leading international body for the protection of monuments, announced at a press conference in New York that the “Lower Jordan River Cultural Landscape” was an Endangered Cultural Heritage Site.

The Lower Jordan River is arguably the most famous River in the world, with heritage values to half of humanity. It is a site of international significance because of its rich natural and cultural heritage, and its symbolic value and importance to three of the world’s major religions. Along the banks of the Jordan River miracles occurred from the Hebrew Bible, Jesus Christ was baptized and the companions of the Prophet Mohammed were buried.

However, today the beauty and cultural heritage values of the Lower Jordan River have been severely compromised. 90% of its natural water flow has been diverted by Israel, Jordan and Syria for domestic and agricultural use, with sewage flowing in its place. The region’s current policies treat the River as a backyard dumping ground, resulting in its ecological devastation.

“Disrespect for both natural and cultural values, together with poor regional water management has led to the complete demise of this world famous river”, said Munqeth Mehyar, Jordanian director of EcoPeace Middle East out of the organizations Amman office in Jordan.

Announced every two years, the World Monuments Fund’s Watch List acts as a call to action, drawing international public attention to threatened cultural heritage sites across the globe. The 2008 Watch List of a 100 declared sites shows that human activity has become the greatest threat to world cultural heritage. Visit www.wmf.org for a description of all sites listed.

EcoPeace Middle East, a regional environmental organization of Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians has been campaigning to raise awareness concerning the demise of the Lower Jordan River has succeeded in putting the poor state of the river on the regional and national agendas. The listing of the Jordan River includes a 2000 year old Roman Bridge that crosses the river and a Mamluk era “Khan” – a rest house for travelers from the 12th century – both in disrepair.

“The Watch List of the World Monuments Fund is now sounding the alarm bell loud and clear to all those who care about the River Jordan” says Mira Edelstein, EcoPeace’s Tel-Aviv campaigner for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River. “It is sad that only through international pressure will our governments act to rehabilitate this valley of cultural and natural heritage”.

With the inclusion of the Jordan River on the World Monuments Fund’s 100 Most Endangered Sites, EcoPeace is hopeful that the international attention brought to bear will foster both the political will and cooperation needed to rehabilitate the river valley and remove it from the endangered list as soon as possible.

For more information, please visit EcoPeace’s website at www.ecopeaceme.org and contact:
Mira Edelstein, mira@ecopeaceme.org +972-54-6392937 or
Holly Evart, WMF director of public relations in the USA on +1-646-9594424 or hevarts@wmf.org