An environmental group on Wednesday called for a halt to baptisms in the Jordan River where tradition holds that Jesus was baptized, saying the waters there were dangerously polluted.
In recent years the flow of the river has slowed to a dirty trickle as fresh water running into the river has been replaced with sewage.
"Sadly, the lower Jordan River has long suffered from severe mismanagement with the diversion of 98 percent of its fresh water by Israel, Syria and Jordan and the discharge of untreated sewage, agricultural run-off, saline water and fish pond effluent in its place," the statement said.
The, known as Qasr al-Yehud, is a closed military area near the West Bank city of Jericho. In recent years the army, under pressure from the tourism ministry, has opened it to pilgrims on special occasions.