Naharayim is best known as the island of peace. In addition to being the site of the signing of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, it is also the site of the first electricity plant built by the Israel Electric Company in the 1920s.
Pinchas Rotenberg, the founder of the Israel Electric Company, was born in 1879 in the Ukraine. He studied engineering in the University of St Petersburg, where he became a socialist for many years, and later a Zionist. In 1919, he moved to Palestine with the aim of developing an irrigation and electricity system using local resources. After studying the rivers in the area, he suggested building 13 hydroelectric plants in the area, from Syria to the Dead Sea.
The Naharayim power plant was selected, due to the strong water flow, and the ability to control the flow of water from the Sea of Galilee. The plant was to be built at the junction of the Yarmuk and Jodan rivers. The British Mandate approved the plan, and the Emir Abdullah of Transjordan gave them the rights to use 6000 dunams of land in Transjordan in exchange for electricity. In 1927 construction began and in 1932 power was supplied to Jordan and Israel.
The Palestine Electric Corporation had previously built three diesel plants. Together, the three plants supplied less than 1000 kilowatts of electricity. The Naharayim power plant supplied 16-17 times the amount of electricity currently available.
Unfortunately, the water in the area was not consistent, and the strength of the water flows depended on the amount of rain received and the time of year. A complex system was designed by Rotenberg; The Naharayim power plant was designed with four dams, an artificial lake, and a “zero” channel which returned the water to the rivers, thus conserving water.
The first dam was the Degania Dam, which is just south of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret); this allowed Rotenberg to control the flow of water according to the needs of the power plant. The second dam is the Dalhamiya Dam, north of Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov; which created a 3-kilometer long channel for the Jordan River. A dam over the Yarmuk river blocked the flow of the river and created an artificial lake. A concrete canal took the water and carried it down 27 meters into the turbines of the plant. The water was then carried back through the “zero” channel, and returned to the Jordan River.
The hydroelectric power plant was in use until the War of Independence in 1948. A day before the war began the Iraqi army seized the power plant and halted the electricity. The sluice gates at the Degania Dam were opened to flood the Jordan River and prevent the Iraqi and Jordan troops from crossing into Israel. The bridges leading to Naharayim were also blown up by Israeli forces.
In 1994, the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty was signed at the island of Naharayim, which became known as the Isle of Peace. The land, although still farmed by Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov, was transferred to Jordan. Thus, the island is under Jordanian security control.
In 1997, a group of school girls from Beit Shemesh visited Naharayim during a class trip. A Jordanian soldier opened fire on the group, killing seven young girls. King Hussein of Jordan ensured that the Jordanian soldier received life imprisonment, and visited the homes of each of the school girls to express his personal sorrow.
Tip: Naharayim is located near Ashdot Yaakov, on route 90 in the Jordan Valley.
Tip: A visit to Naharayim is by vehicle, with a limited number of stops. Identification is required to enter Jordan. A visit takes about one hour on a guided tour.
Tip: There is an entrance fee.
Tip: Reservations are required in advance. Telephone 04-670-9143
Tip: The site is open from 8:00-15:30, with the last entrance at 15:30.
Tip: Don’t miss the Dam Walk along the Yarmuk waterfalls to the Lake Dam.
Tip: Don’t miss the “hill of picked flowers” memorial in memory of the seven young girls killed in 1997.