YARKON or ME-YARKON
YARKON or ME-YARKON (Jarkon; Heb. מֵי [הַ]יַּרְקוֹן), river on the border of the tribe of Dan, which is described as passing Bene-Berak, Gath-Rimmon, and "Me-Jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Joppa" (Josh. 19:45–46). The majority of scholars, regarding the form Rakkon as a haplography, identify the Yarkon mentioned there with the river known in Arabic as Nahr al-ʿAwjā, the second largest source of water in Israel. The Yarkon rises from the vicinity of Tell Aphek (Raʾs al-ʿAyn), approximately 8 mi. (13 km.) from the sea, and after describing a bow to the north, falls into the sea at Tel Aviv, after a course of approximately 16 mi. (26 km.). It receives several tributaries, of which the Naḥal Natuf (Wadi Deir (Dayr) Ballūṭ), from the north, and the Naḥal Aijalon (Wadi al-Muṣrā), from the south, are the largest. At present, the river is barred by a sandy spit, but in ancient times it was navigable for a certain length. This explains the existence of an ancient port and storage center at Tell Qasīle, approximately 2 mi. (3 km.) inland, on the northern bank of the river.
The name Yarkon is derived from the root yarok ("green"), which refers to the color of its waters. According to Greek legend, it was in the waters of this river that Perseus washed his sword after killing the dragon and liberating Andromeda on the rocks before Jaffa; therefore, at certain seasons, its waters run red. This fact is explained by the red soil (ḥamrāʾ) through which the Yarkon runs. In the Mishnah (Par. 8:10), it is referred to as Me-Puga, the waters of Pegai (the Greek name for Tell Aphek, from where the river rises). It is listed in the Talmud (BB 74b) and elsewhere as one of the four rivers of the Holy Land; due to its swampy origin, its waters were unusable for service in the Temple. As the most prominent of the east-west water courses passing the coastal plain, the Yarkon served as the boundary of the territories of Jaffa, Philistia, and Judea at various times. Passage over it was sufficiently difficult to cause the course of the Via Maris to be diverted so as to pass Tell Aphek, a fact which explains the importance of this site. Alexander Yannai tried to use the line of the river as an obstacle to the advance of the Seleucid army southward by fortifying it. Remains of his fortifications have been found at various places in Tel Aviv.
In early Arab times, the Yarkon was called Nahr Abu Fuṭrus, a corruption of the name *Antipatris, the city founded by Herod at Tell Aphek. On its banks the famous battle of al-Tawwāḥīn between the Tūlūnid Egyptian and the Abbasid troops was fought for the possession of Palestine in 885. In Crusader times, it was known as the "River of Jaffa" (Flum de Japhe), rising at the "tower of the silent springs" (Toron quod superiacet surdis fontibus). Even at that time it was called Nahr al-ʿAwjā ("the tortuous river") by the Arabs, a name which the Crusaders corrupted to les Loges. The first accurate mapping of the Yarkon was made by Jacotin in 1799. In the 19th century, its basin became one of the centers of Jewish settlement, beginning with Petaḥ Tikvah and then Bene-Berak, Ramat Gan, and Tel Aviv. Its waters were used for irrigation and other purposes by the settlements along its course; a project to exploit it for generating electricity had to be given up. The crossing of the Yarkon by Allenby's army in 1917 marked the culmination of the first British campaign in Palestine. In recent years, half of its waters have been diverted to irrigate the Negev, thus reducing its level and drying out its bed drastically. The establishment of new settlements and industries along its course introduced pollutants into the water. As a result, only in the eastern part of the river, near its sources, is there running water. Its western part contains seawater. In 1988 the Yarkon Authority was established to clean up the river, and a large park, the Yarkon Park, was created on its western bank. However, the river remained polluted, and the Maccabiah tragedy of 1997, when a bridge collapsed as the Australian contingent crossed it, cost people their lives due to exposure to the polluted waters of the Yarkon.
S. Avizur, Ha-Yarkon… (1957); B. Maisler (Mazar), in: Eretz-Israel, 1 (1951), 45ff.; idem, in: IEJ, 1 (1951), 61ff., 125ff., 194ff.; M. Avnimelech, in: BIES, 15 (1950), 2ff.; idem, in: IEJ, 1 (1951), 77ff.; J. Kaplan, in: BIES, 16 (1951), 17ff.
[Michael Avi-Yonah /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.