Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Germs and the Sacred

There are people who speak with derision on the subject of germophobes who are loathe to sip from the common cup.
There are others who take issue with being told that receiving Holy Communion on the tongue during an epidemic is unwise.
(These two positions are seldom taken by the same people, oddly.... I will never understand how "the party line" works.)

Wonder how either fringe looks at this...
[A man baptized in the Jordan River] may have had a spiritual experience, but it wasn't a healthy one. Standing on the Israeli-controlled side of the site, Gidon Bromberg, of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), talks about the dangers.

"If you drink the water, you're likely to get diarrhea or stomach problems, and if you have a cut, you will probably get a rash," he told AOL News. "Israel bans people from being baptized here, and the Jordanians advise against it, but it's still hard to stop people."

Bromberg says that many people save the robes they are baptized in here and choose to be buried in them.

Those relics may become all the more poignant, for the Jordan River, important to all three monotheistic religions, is drying up. In the 1930s, there were 1.3 billion cubic meters of water flowing down the Jordan River each year. Now, according to FoEME, just 20 million to 30 million cubic meters complete the trip to the Dead Sea, because Israel, Syria and Jordan divert 98 percent of the river water for their own uses. And what little does flow is highly polluted.

About 65 miles north of Kasr al-Yahud is Yardenit, the official Israeli site for baptism, where the Jordan River exits from the Sea of Galilee. Here the water is relatively clean. But just a few miles downriver at the Alumot Dam, raw sewage spills into the river, and the stench is overpowering.

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