Lying in the heart of the Syrian-African rift valley at the southern outlet of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea region is internationally known for its unique geographical, biological, and historical characteristics. It is the lowest point on earth and world’s saltiest large water body. The Basin’s historical features include Jesus’s baptism site, Masada, and Mt. Nebo, among many, many others.
Despite the lack of wildlife in the Dead Sea itself, the region around it is blessed with unique flora and fauna, including endangered species such as ibex, leopards, and hyrax. The wetlands surrounding the Sea support several species, such as the indigenous “Dead Sea Sparrow”, and serve as important resting and breeding sites for millions of migratory birds crossing between Europe and Africa each year.
Together with its ecological interest, the Dead Sea is rich in a wide variety of minerals, making it an attraction for millions of visitors wishing to take advantage of the therapeutic qualities of its minerals.
Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel
April 22, 2015, Wednesday, Ein Gedi Hostel, Dead Sea, Palestine-Israel (Earth Day)
Yes, I made it past the sinkholes, a Dead Sea version of the pothole, but large enough to fall into. Maybe more like some of the recent potholes in Detroit [during November 2014]. I saw many but none close to the road, except maybe near the town of Ein Gedi where I reside now. The road is partially blocked; the government constructed a detour that skirts or enters the nature reserve, possibly endangering the animals who are not familiar with vehicles at night. The road south resumes on the other side of the detour. I drove it last evening to buy food in Kibbutz Ein Gedi but saw no sinkholes. I shall look again today when I drive further south along the sea. I spotted numerous bright red signs warning people about the dangerous conditions.
Sinkholes in agricultural fields, photo by George Steinmetz, 2007
Yesterday, north of here, I stopped numerous times to photograph the holes, layered shore line, sea views, abandoned buildings including what was claimed to be the first Jewish neighborhood, and maybe most importantly the general region where the Jordan River meets the sea.
Northern tip of the Dead Sea, where the Jordan River enters, partially hidden
This I photographed badly. A fence prevented close examination. I tried using my camera’s live view but the sun washed out my screen image. I tried estimating the field but missed on all but one occasion. Same with the knocked over guard tower. If I remember, I will try again on my return trip. The site was the first beach access point, inundated with tourists. I photographed the buses.
Kalia Beach, most Palestinians unable to reach this beach
even tho it is in the West Bank of Palestine
At the site of many abandoned buildings which I presumed to be former Jordanian army barracks, I became lost on the rutted, dried mud roads. Not panicking but wondering whether I’d be mightily embarrassed if I couldn’t find my way out. Or if I drove into a ditch and required a tow. I managed, slowly.
I recall first observing this general area with the 2003 delegation (I note that its two leaders, Scott and Tariq, are now both dead, as is at least one participant, the old man.). Twelve years ago we drove thru the area on our way to the beach. Today is Israel’s Independence Day celebration so housing and shops and housing may be affected. Last night a siren sounded for a minute or so to commemorate the deaths of all Israeli soldiers and others killed as a result of the conflict. I wrote to my list the following with an article:
Memorial day in Israel
tonight as i rest overlooking the dead sea, in a pristine oasis known as ein gedi (beset by sinkholes caused by a receding dead sea), i hear the siren commemorating israeli soldiers’ deaths. many of them, 67 from last year’s foolish assault on gaza known as operation protective edge.
here is today’s editorial in a leading israeli newspaper, ha’aretz.
Showing the extent of Dead Sea in the West Bank
“Israel prevents Palestinians from going to the Dead Sea” (August 2007)
“Boycott of Ahava Dead Sea products makes an impact,” by Adri Nieuwhof
TO BE CONTINUED