All you have to do is walk. Just take a few steps from where you are and you’ll find yourself in enemy territory. How odd. I’m standing in the waters of the Jordan River; it runs from the Sea of Galilee, divides Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on the west from Jordan on the east, then it empties into the Dead Sea at about 1,312 feet below sea level; the river with the lowest elevation in the world.
I don’t have a political agenda nor do I have religious reasons to be at this river where, according to the New Testament, Jesus was baptized by John. I’m simply here in the now, dipping my feet in the water and thinking that it would take me a couple of minutes to traverse this knee-high walkable water passage into Israel. I’m thinking how easily anyone could make it from one side to the other: from Israel to Jordan; from Jewish to Muslim, from there to here. I’m thinking of how ferociously both sides have fought for control over this river of milky waters. In 1951 and 1953 neighboring Syria and Israel went at it; in 1967 after the river was diverted, the Six Day Arab-Israeli War took place. At the end of it, Israel gained control over the river: with the Golan Heights, Israel had all of the Jordan Rivers Headwaters within its territory, and with the West Bank, Israel gained access to the length of the Jordan River and controlled the three major aquifers. In 1969 Israel accused Jordan of over diverting the river and aiding Palestine. There were air raids on this side of the river, destruction, fire, ashes.
The thing is, both sides need water to survive. They are both thirsty for water and power. Both sides know it and both use water as a political weapon against each other. It is an ongoing water conflict, as central to the peace process and as current as the war over land.
Then again, we are such fools. From where I am--on the Jordanian side--I see a Jewish family come into their side of the river. The father wears his yarmulke; he has a wife and four children in tow. They get into the river but don't look up. If they did, they'd probably see themselves in us looking back at them. Wanting to go to the middle of this creek and shake hands, play patty-cake, patty-cake over the fence with the children, tell them that we are tired of playing war and that we are ready for time out. For our children's sake. Forever.