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

NGS Resource Carousel Loading Logo
Loading ...
Selected text level

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 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. It unites, in its scenic watershed, 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 an alternate 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 that believe in one God consider it a holy place due to Abraham’s actions here.

Geographically, Jerusalem is connected to the fabled Jordan River Basin by the Kidron-Nar Valley. The Kidron-Nar starts in Jerusalem and ends at the Dead Sea. It has long been a spiritual and cultural corridor. It is a holy basin that encompasses the highest concentration of spiritual sites important to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It holds hundreds of spiritual sites, including the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, which is a holy site for all three religions; the Wailing Wall, a pilgrimage site for Jewish people; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a pilgrimage site for Christians; the Mount of Olives, which is where many events from Jesus’s life are said to have happened; Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion; Mar Saba Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the world; and the Nebi Musa Shrine, which Muslims believe contains the tomb of Moses.

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

Flowing from Jerusalem towards the Jordan desert, the Kidron-Nar stream crosses the West Bank. It flows 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 run untreated to the Dead Sea. This polluted stream severely impacts the quality of life of a quarter million people who live at its edges. Many of those people lack access to clean drinking water.

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

Together, Israeli and Palestinian members of the initiative have created a master plan. It offers a sustainable future for the people, environment, and culture in the Kidron-Nar Valley. We are 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, 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 introductions 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. In other words, they support a place people will seek out for environmental, faith, and other cultural enrichment.

Given the area’s critical location and spiritual importance, the Kidron-Nar Initiative believes it is our collective global responsibility to guarantee the restoration 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

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources