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
[For publications relevant to this project, click here]
The Jordan River Peace Park – a concrete first step towards rehabilitating the Jordan River – is an ecotourism and cultural heritage project along the common border between the “Island of Peace” in Naharayim – Ashdot Yaakov, Bakoura and the Old Gesher site.
The project is a joint venture between the Jordan Valley Regional Council, the Spring Valley Regional Council and the Jordanian Muaz Jabal Municipality, who have signed on a Memorandum of Understanding to develop this project, in cooperation with EcoPeace Middle East, supported by the Ministry of Tourism and the Israel Government Tourist Corporation.
A protected environmental park on both sides of the Jordan River will provide opportunities for the preservation of biodiversity, joint environmental management, collaborative research programs, cross-border environmental education, and expand economic opportunities for regional cooperation in ecotourism for the two countries.
The establishment of the future Jordan River Peace Park presents an important symbol for peace in the region and is a milestone in the special relationship forged at this site between Prince Abdullah and Pinchas Rutenberg with the establishment of the power plant in Naharayim.
The potential to develop the area for eco-tourism is outstanding due to the natural beauty of the area. 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 eco-lodges and the old power station converted into a visitors’ center.
The development of the Park will occur in stages.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE AREA
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.
Regional Design Workshops to Develop Ideas
In 2008, EcoPeace organized a “Charrette” (Design Workshop) led by architects from Yale University’s Urban Design School, together with architects from Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and Jordanian and Palestinian architects that developed initial design ideas for the Jordan River Peace Park. The workshop began with a tour of the proposed Jordan River Peace Park sites in both Israel and Jordan and continued with group working sessions in Jordan. It culminated in public presentations in both Amman and Jerusalem.
Click on the links for a
Summary of the Charrette and main points of the Pre-feasibility study as well – in English
Summary of the Charrette and main points of the Pre-feasibility study as well -in Hebrew
The 2014 Old Gesher Charrette (Israel) aimed to bring together a core group of architects and planners, some of whom led the 2008 charrette to advance proposals and recommendations to enhance and align the Old Gesher site to serve as the southern Israeli entrance of the future Jordan River Peace Park. The recommendations and proposals for interventions made through the workshop process built upon the overall masterplan proposed for the Jordan River Peace Park during the 2008 regional EcoPeace Charette and the recommendations of the 2008 PUSH project Old Gesher site manual.
The results of the 2014 Old Gesher Design Workshop were presented to relevant stakeholders in a meeting on the final day of the workshop. The full results are included in a presentation available here