Thousands of Christians visit the River Jordan as part of pilgrimages every year Photo: Andrey Shirokov - Itar-Tass
A popular baptism site on the river Jordan is facing closure after Israel's ministry of health warned that it was dangerously polluted.
The site has been closed to the public for testing after initial results from sampling showed high levels of sewage and agricultural chemicals.
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 from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.
Friends of the Earth have launched a campaign to stop people entering the water.
"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," a statement from the environmental group said.
However, closing the site, which is the third most important Christian site in the Holy Land, is controversial because a £1.3m refurbishment project is under way to attract more pilgrims, the Guardian reports.
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