Kishon River

Kishon River (Nahal Kishon)
Kishon River near Haifa in 2010
Country Israel
District Haifa District
City Haifa
Source Gilboa mountains
Mouth Shefekh haKishon
 - location Haifa Bay, Mediterranean Sea
Length 70 km (43 mi)

The Kishon River (Hebrew: נחל הקישון, Nachal HaKishon; Arabic: نهر المقطع, Nahr el-Mokatta,[1][2] or Mukutta',[3]the river of slaughter or dismemberment; Alternative Arabic, الكيشون al-Qisun) is a river in Israel that flows into the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Haifa.


The Kishon River is a 70 kilometres (43 mi)-long perennial stream in Israel. Its farthermost source is the Gilboa mountains, and it flows in a west-northwesterly direction through the Jezreel Valley, emptying into the Haifa Bay in the Mediterranean Sea.[4] Its drainage basin, of 1,100 square kilometres (420 sq mi), includes much of Jezreel Valley and the Western Galilee, and parts of Mount Carmel.


The Kishon is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible. 1 Kings (18:40) names it the place where the prophets of Baal were executed on Elijah's orders. In Judges (5:21) the Kishon River washes away the Canaanite army.

Following the end of the First World War there was an increase in the number of Jewish settlers arriving in Palestine, the Third Aliyah. Those who arrived at Haifa were kept in a tented Quarantine Camps set up on the Kishon estuary. Many of the immigrants, Halutzim, were infected with malaria for which the area was notorious.[5] Under the British Mandate the area became Haifa's industrial zone with a power station, railway workshops and the Iraq Petroleum Company refinery.[6]


Kishon River after cleanup, 2010.

Considered the most polluted river in Israel, it has been the subject of controversy regarding the struggle to improve the water quality. The pollution stems in part from daily contamination for over 40 years with mercury, other heavy metals, and organic chemicals by nearby chemical plants.

It is often claimed today that there are more chemicals than water in the river, and that washing one's hands in this river can cause severe chemical burns.[7] On several occasions this river (or rather, patches of petrochemical waste on it) has caught fire from the chemical contaminants. Below Histadrut Bridge (Highway 4), after passing the petrochemical industries zone, the pH was 3 or below for most of the time in 2001.

A 2002 study found the ability of 3 hours' exposure to Kishon River water to induce DNA damage in rainbow-trout liver-cells to be on average threefold that of unpolluted water. Notably the lower Kishon, below the petrochemical industry zone,[8] had a markedly elevated genotoxic potential.

A 2000 analysis of the river water revealed chlorinated compounds in discharges from the refineries,[9] the municipal sewage treatment plant and from the Haifa Chemicals fertilizer production plant. Heavy metals were present in the discharges from the Carmel Olefins and Haifa Chemicals plants. The upper river system may also be mixed with genotoxic materials from domestic waste and agricultural runoff that contain pesticides and fertilizers. Potent genotoxins usually found in domestic wastes also include N-nitroso compounds and aromatic amines, which are known to be present in human sanitary outflows as well as genotoxic PAHs found in municipal discharges.[8]


In 2012, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a tender to clean up the Kishon river in a project costing NIS 220 million.[10][11] Much of the funding for the project came from the companies responsible for the pollution.[12] The Canadian company EnGlobe Corp. began work in 2012 to clean up the river.[10][13] The cleanup project is to be concluded in 2015.[12]

Shayetet 13

IDF training in the Kishon River. 1969-1970.

Since 2001, it was discovered that Shayetet 13 veterans had high occurrence of cancer, probably due to training in the polluted Kishon River and Haifa Bay. A commission for investigating the matter did not find statistical evidence that diving in the Kishon caused the cancers. However, despite the commission findings, Minister of Defence, Shaul Mofaz, decided to compensate the divers' families.


  1. Henderson, Archibald (1884). Palestine. Its Historical Geography, with topographical index and maps. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. p. 205.
  2.  Easton, Matthew George (1897). "Kishon". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
  3. "Map of Western Palestine in 26 sheets from the surveys conducted for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by Lietenanats C.R. Conder and H.H. Kitchener R.E. during the years 1872-1877." (Map). London: Palestine Exploration Fund. 1880. Sheet 5, sections Li, Kh. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. "Cleaning up the Kishon River". Ministry of the Environment (Israel). Retrieved 19 July 2011. The 70-kilometer long river, which drains an area of 1100 square kilometers, starts in the Gilboa mountains, flows through the Jezreel Valley and empties into the sea at Haifa.
  5. Duff, Douglas V. (1934). Sword for Hire. The Saga of a Modern Free-Companion (1st ed.). London: John Murray. pp. 118-120.
  6. Matson, G. Olaf (c. 1946). The Palestine Guide including Trans-Jordan (Fifth ed.). Jerusalem: Joshua Simon. pp. 324,327.
  7. Andersson, Hilary (2000-09-25). "The Holy Land's poisonous river". BBC News. BBC News Online. Retrieved 2007-08-28
  8. 1 2 Avishai, Nanthawan; Rabinowitz, Claudette; Moiseeva, Elisabeth & Rinkevich, Baruch (2002): Genotoxicity of the Kishon River, Israel: the application of an in vitro cellular assay. Mutation Research 518(1): 21–37. doi:10.1016/S1383-5718(02)00069-4 (HTML abstract)
  9. Fluorinated compounds precipitate into the river sediment: Avishai et al. 2002
  10. 1 2
  12. 1 2,7340,L-4351320,00.html
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Coordinates: 32°49′N 35°02′E / 32.817°N 35.033°E / 32.817; 35.033

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