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.

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 journeys we undertook was down the Kidron-Nar Creek, a river that begins in Jerusalem and flows east toward the Dead Sea. This desert stream cuts through time and religions. Its waters and scenery unite the Palestinian and Israeli communities. It also happens to carry much of Jerusalem’s raw sewage. At a time when so much tragedy is evident on this bruised corner of the globe, we thought it would be useful to share a new and different dream. Please read about a joint effort by Israelis and Palestinians to revive 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. Thus, this place became the symbol of the connection between God and believer. Three great religions consider it a holy place because of Abraham’s actions here.

Geographically, Jerusalem is connected to the famous Jordan River Basin by the Kidron-Nar Valley. The Kidron-Nar starts in Jerusalem and ends at the Dead Sea. For a long time, it has been a place of community, tradition, and spirituality. This holy basin holds many of the most spiritual sites important to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Yet, sadly, its waters are the most polluted in the region.

The Kidron-Nar stream crosses the West Bank, flowing from Jerusalem towards the Jordan desert. It flows through Arab communities not far from Bethlehem. It is polluted by a third of all the raw sewage generated by Jerusalem. Some 15 million cubic meters of sewage per year run untreated to the Dead Sea. The pollution negatively affects the lives of a quarter million people who live near the stream. Many of those people lack access to clean drinking water.

Palestinians and Israelis have come together to help solve this problem. We are the Kidron-Nar Initiative.

Together, we have created a master plan. Our members are Israeli and Palestinian. Our plan offers a stable and lasting future for the people, environment, and culture in the Kidron-Nar Valley. We are relying on the work of engineers, architects, archeologists, and social planners on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. We are cooperating across political and cultural boundaries. We are starting with the people in the community.

Two of our most successful efforts so far are the creation of environmental education programs in schools and the introduction of projects that empower women through photography projects. Economically, the initiative supports small businesses that focus on the creation of a pilgrimage route and eco-cultural tourism. In other words, they support a place where people will travel to for environmental, faith, and other cultural reasons.

Given its critical location and spiritual importance, the Kidron-Nar Initiative promotes a shared global responsibility to guarantee the revival of the waters in the Kidron-Nar Valley.

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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