JNF Honors Memory of Australian Victims of Maccabiah Tragedy

Four athletes died during the 15th Maccabiah in 1997 when a bridge collapsed over the Yarkon River.

The Jewish National Fund Sunday dedicated a memorial wall on the shores of the Yarkon River honoring the four Australian athletes who died during the 15th Maccabiah in 1997. The commemoration also noted the special project to rehabilitate the river being funded by JNF Australia.

However, it appears the commemoration is preceding the actual rehabilitation, since the river is still suffering from serious pollution that undermines all cleanup efforts. Moreover, it is still unclear where the river will be supplied with clean water in the future.

The rehabilitation project funded by the Jewish community in Australia through the JNF is based on the establishment of green wetlands in the Hod Hasharon area. These will be pools in which plants and rocks will draw pollution from purified sewage water that will flow to the river, creating a clean source of river water.

The plans for feeding the river with the purified water in Hod Hasharon and then pumping it back out in the area of Rosh Tzipor for agricultural use (where the memorial wall was built) have not been carried out.

The Yarkon River authority worries that competition with other water consumers, mainly in agriculture, means there will be insufficient water made available to supply the river.

"Under such circumstances there will be insufficient flow in the river, and this will harm the entire ecological system," David Pergament, head of the river authority said.

Ze'ev Ahipaz, of the Water Authority, said plans for the treated sewage water are close to being completed and estimates the project will be finished in two years.

But during the past six months there have been three incidents in which untreated sewage flowed into the river, doing serious damage to the ecological system. For the first time, polluted water also entered the only clean part of the river, in its eastern portion. "It stemmed from a problem in the sewage system in the Rosh Ha'ayin area," Pergament said.