Jordan Valley (Middle East)

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The Jordan Valley overlooking Lake Kinneret

The Jordan Valley (Arabic: الغور‎, Al-Ghor or Al-Ghawr; Hebrew: עמק הירדן‎, Emek Hayarden) forms part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. It is 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, where it runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It runs for an additional 155 kilometer south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba, an area also known as Wadi Arabah or the Arava valley. It forms the border between Israel and Jordan in the north, and the eastern strip of the West Bank in the south. In 2009, the population of the Jordan Valley was 400,000.[1]


Local government

In the late 1930s, the kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley formed the Council of the Gush, a regional municipal framework responsible for liaison with the authorities of the British Mandate. In the 1940s, this economic, cultural and security cooperation between the kibbutzim continued, and a regional school system was established. In 1949, the Jordon Valley Regional Council was formed, becoming the model for regional councils throughout the country.[2]


Some 47,000 Palestinians live in the part of the valley that lies in the West Bank in about twenty permanent communities, among them the city of Jericho; thousands more, largely Bedouins, live in temporary communities.[3] About 11,000 Israelis live in 17 villages that form part of the Emek HaYarden Regional Council in Israel.[4] An additional 7,500 live in twenty-six Israeli settlements and five Nahal brigade encampments that have been established in the part of the Jordan Valley that lies in the West Bank since the 1970s.[3] The Jordanian population of the valley is over 85,000 people,[5] most of whom are farmers, and 80% of the farms in the Jordanian part of the valley are family farms no larger than 30 dunams (3 ha, 7.4 ac).[6]

Jordan Valley Regional Council

Prior to the Six-Day War, the valley was home to about 80,000 people largely engaged in agriculture and pastoralism.[5] In 1987, the Jordanian population of the valley was estimated at over 85,000 people,[5] mostly farmers. 80% of the farms in the Jordanian part of the valley were family farms no larger than 30 dunams (3 ha, 7.4 ac).[7] By 1971, the population had declined to 5,000 as a result of the war and the 1970-71 conflict between the Palestinian guerrillas and the Jordanian armed forces.[5]


Yardenit baptism site on the Jordan River

The northern part of the valley, known in Arabic as the Ghor (غور), includes the Jordan River. Several degrees warmer than adjacent areas, its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and water supply have made the Ghor a key agricultural area.[8] The Jordan River rises from several sources, mainly the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in Syria. It flows down into Lake Tiberias, 212 meters below sea level, and then drains into the Dead Sea.[8] South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley turns into the hot, dry southern part of the valley known as Wadi 'Araba, the "wilderness" or "Arabah desert" of the Bible.[8]


Agriculture in the region dates back about 10,000 years ago. By about 3000 BCE, produce from the valley was being exported to neighboring regions.[8] The area's fertile lands were chronicled in the Old Testament, and the Jordan River is revered by Christians as the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ.[8] Modern methods of farming have vastly expanded the agricultural output of the area.[8] The construction of the East Ghor Canal by Jordan in 1950s (now known as the King Abdullah Canal), which runs down the east bank of the Jordan Valley for 69 kilometers and has brought new areas under irrigation.[8] The introduction of portable greenhouses has brought about a sevenfold increase in productivity, allowing Jordan to export large amounts of fruit and vegetables year-round.[8]

According to agricultural consultant Samir Muaddi, the Civil Administration helps Palestinian farmers and the Palestinian agriculture ministry market their produce in Israel and ensure its quality. Seminars are held on modern agriculture, exposing the farmers to Israeli and international innovations.[9]