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Crossing the Jordan

| Opinion | November 1, 2018

by Gary Curtis

King Abdullah II of Jordan has notified Israel that his country will not renew leased farmland to Israel, which was part of the historic peace agreement, signed by his father in October 1994.

The leases were for 25 years, with a notification required the year prior to their conclusion, if the lease would not be renewed by either side. So, the October 2018 deadline for such a notification has been exercised.

Much of the presently leased land is on the East Bank of the Jordan River, southeast of the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. It is near where the smaller Yarmouk River joins the Jordan River, which is historically and inextricably linked with the Jewish people.

It was this area, known as Gilead, where two and one-half tribes of Israel settled (Num. 32) when the Hebrews migrated from slavery in Egypt, over 3,400 years ago.

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Some six centuries prior, the Jewish prophets Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan River on dry land after striking Elijah’s mantle to the waters (2 Kings 2). Then, the entire Hebrew nation made its own miraculous crossing, under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua 3).

Moses was forbidden from crossing the river (Deut. 3) and when he died, he was buried on the eastern side of the Jordan, in Moab (Deut. 34:1-6), which is part of the country of Jordan, today.

In modern history, Jordan was “invented” by Winston Churchill in 1921, as an administrative part of the British Mandated territory, on the eastern side of the Jordan River. As a homeland for the Palestinian Arabs, it was to be the first of a “two-state solution.”

Finally, the Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan was granted full independence in 1946, as Britain’s Mandate was nearing conclusion.

The remaining mandated-land, west of the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, was designated for a sovereign Jewish nation. After the regional war, which followed Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948, Trans-Jordan ended up occupying part of Jerusalem and land to the north of it, along with the western bank of the Jordan River.

This West Bank occupied territory was held by the Jordanian Arabs for 19 years, until the 1967 War, which “liberated” the territory from Jordan. Under Israeli control since that time, many of the member states of the U.N. still have not recognized the territory as Israeli land.

This was the background to the surprise 1973 Arab attacks on Israel, during their High Holy Days. Again, Israel came out on top, with additional Arab territory seeded to them in the Sinai desert, by Egypt. This land was returned to Egypt as part of Israel’s historic peace treaty with that nation in 1979.

Fifteen years later, a “Treaty of Peace between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” was signed on October 26, 1994. The agreement contained 30 articles, five annexes (which address boundary demarcations), water issues, police cooperation, environmental issues, and mutual border crossings, along with six definitive maps.
Now, after 24 years of tepid peace between the two sovereign nations, this new devolvement may signal added nationalism aspirations from Jordan’s Muslim-majority-Arabs. With Syria’s civil war to the north, ISIS fighters still to the south and radical Islamists east of Jordan, nothing is really secure and certain on the “stormy banks” of the Jordan River!

For “people of the Book”—Jews and Christians—the Jordan River has always had a metaphorical connection with the “Promised Land” of Heaven and the Hereafter. For them, death is not the end, only the beginning!

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the Promised Land,
I am bound for the Promised Land;
O who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the Promised Land.

–Samuel Stennett

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