The Jordan Valley and the southern part of the Sea of Galilee

The Jordan Valley is a geographical region that 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.

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.[1] About 11,000 Israelis live in 17 kibbutzim that form part of the Emek HaYarden Regional Council in Israel.[2] 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.[1] The Jordanian population of the valley is over 85,000 people,[3] 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 in size.[4]


The northern part of the valley is known as the Ghor, and it 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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

Agriculture in the Ghor dates back about 10,000 years ago. By about 3000 BCE, produce from the valley was being exported to neighboring regions.[5] 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.[5]

In the last few decades, modern methods of farming have vastly expanded the agricultural output of the area.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

Territorial dispute

Prior to the 1967 War, the valley was home to about 80,000 people largely engaged in agriculture and pastoralism.[3] 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.[3]

Since the end of the 1967 war, every Israeli government has considered this strip to be the "eastern border" of Israel with Jordan.[1] Most of the strip lying in present-day Israel and the West Bank has been declared state land and assigned to the jurisdictional area of the Israeli regional councils of Bik'at HaYarden and Megilot. As part of the Oslo Agreements, the strip was classified as Area C, with the exception of the enclave around Jericho.[1]

Israel initially planned to construct an eastern barrier extension as part of the Israeli West Bank barrier, thus separating the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank. Plans were abandoned following international criticism of the route of the barrier as a whole, and the High Court of Justice's decision of June 2004. Instead, a regime of permits and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians has been instituted in the Jordan Valley. B'tselem, an Israeli human rights group states: "These acts have served as a substitute for the construction of a physical barrier, creating a situation in the Jordan Valley almost identical to that of the 'seam zone' between the Israeli West Bank barrier and the Green Line."[1]


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