Uniting Heaven and Earth: Saving the Kidron-Nar Basin

Uniting Heaven and Earth: Saving the Kidron-Nar Basin

Israelis and Palestinians are working together to restore the heavily polluted Kidron-Nar Basin. Paul Salopek trekked along the creek during his journey and wanted to highlight this unified effort.


5 - 12


Anthropology, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Storytelling, Geography

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In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of Paul Salopek's first steps on his Out of Eden Walk journey, this dispatch is now available for educational use in fifth- and eighth-grade reading levels. The original text is available as the default reading level, as well as on the Out of Eden Walk website.

This article is part of a collection called Out of Eden 10th Anniversary: Water. It is also included in the idea set, Exploring Water With the Out of Eden Walk.

By Avner Goren and Faith Sternlieb


Note: This spring, the Out of Eden Walk project spent several months walking and reporting in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. One of the most interesting treks we undertook was down the Kidron-Nar Creek, a waterway that originates in Jerusalem and flows east toward the Dead Sea. This desert stream cuts through time and religions, and unites, in its scenic watershed, both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. It also happens to carry much of Jerusalem’s raw sewage. At a time when so much tragedy is emanating from this bruised corner of globe, we thought it would be useful to share an alternate dream: a joint effort by Israelis and Palestinians to rehabilitate the historic Kidron-Nar Creek.

Jerusalem is the chosen City. God led Abraham to the mountains of Moriah of Jerusalem, to sacrifice his son. Through this act, Abraham demonstrated his faith to God. And this place became the symbol of the connection between God and believer — and a holy place for three of the great monotheistic religions of the world.

Geographically, Jerusalem is connected to the fabled Jordan River Basin by the Kidron-Nar Valley. The Kidron-Nar, which is anchored by Jerusalem at the headwaters and the Dead Sea at the mouth, has long been a spiritual and cultural corridor. It is a holy basin that it encompasses the highest density of spiritual sites important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, The Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Mount of Olives, Gethsmane, Mar Saba Monastery and the Nebi Musa Shrine among hundreds of others.

Yet, tragically, this watershed is the most polluted in the region.

Flowing from Jerusalem towards the Jordan desert, the Kidron-Nar crosses the West Bank, through Arab communities not far from Bethlehem, fouled by a third of all the raw sewage generated by Jerusalem. Some 15 million cubic meters of sewage per year runs untreated to the Dead Sea. This toxic stream severely impacts the quality of life of a quarter million people who live at its margins, many of whom lack access to clean drinking water.

Palestinians and Israelis have come together to tackle this problem through the innovative Kidron-Nar Initiative.

Together, we have created a master plan that offers a sustainable future for the people, environment and culture in the catchment. Drawing on the work of engineers, architects, archeologists and landscape and urban planners on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, we are cooperating across political and cultural boundaries at a grassroots level.

Two of our most successful efforts so far are the establishment of environmental education programs in schools and the inauguration of projects that empower women through photo-documentary projects. Economically, the initiative supports small businesses that focus on the creation of a pilgrimage route and eco-cultural tourism.

Given its crucial location and spiritual significance, we believe it is our collective global responsibility to guarantee the rehabilitation of the Kidron-Nar watershed. We hope you will join us in making this goal a reality.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Avner Goren
Faith Sternlieb
Oliver Payne
Text Levels
Web Producer
Bayan Atari, National Geographic Society
Instructional Designer
Dan Byerly, National Geographic Society
With help froms
Claudia Hernandez-Halper
Clint Parks
Kate Gallery, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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