Visit the Dead Sea before it dies!
In the army we say "if there's a doubt, there's no doubt". But in this case there is no doubt that you should go see the Dead Sea, before it ceases to be. There is so much to discuss about the Dead Sea so I'll squeeze it all into a short read instead of having you wander around the billion google-search results. We'll cover geography, history, the name, where to go and tips for the first timer.
Once upon a time a great battle was waged between two geological plates. As the battle ended they, in a sense, went their separate ways, creating a deep rift valley. About 60,000 years ago this valley was covered in a sea, an extension of the Mediterranean sea that was shaped like a Lisan (meaning tongue in Arabic). It disappeared about 15,000 years ago due to climate changes. The only remnants are the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, they are the worlds lowest bodies of water.
Just like the tongue sea changed throughout the eons, so did the Dead Sea, and in the past couple of years it is… dying. The Dead Sea gets its waters from springs, rain water, floods and from the Sea of Galilee. It's a dead end for the water and the only way out is by evaporation (which creates the unique chemical composition that allows you to float and enjoy the black mud).
When incoming water and evaporation rates are the same, the sea maintains its volume. This is not the case anymore as less water flows in from the Sea of Galilee due to agricultural usage by the Jordanians and Israelis. Since the peace agreement with Jordan in 1994 Israel has been giving the kingdom 50M water cubes per year, an amount that increases with the rising amount of Syrian refugees. This is water that isn't going into the dead sea.
In the 1970s the southern basin of the Dead Sea became shallow and dried out meaning that there is less surface for water to evaporate from, right? Wrong.
Now the Dead Sea is not one but actually two bodies of water: a northern natural one and a southern one that is artificial. Water is pumped in from the northern basin, and used by tourists and the Dead Sea factories.
The Dead Sea factories are the ultimate reason why it is stretched thin and loses water at a rate of a much bigger lake. Every year 1.3 meters are lost to the Dead Sea which creates eerie abandoned beaches and sinkholes. A possible solution is to put back fresh water in the Dead Sea, it'll cost 2B NIS a year and some suggest that the factories and world bank should back this revival process.
The northern and southern basins of the dead sea are quite different: the northern basin feels wilder and here you'll find the black mud that is filled with soothing minerals that heal your skin. Beaches like Kalya are easy to get to from Jerusalem. While there, check out Gallery -430, a street art project that brings awareness to the issues of the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is thought to be named due to the fact that nothing lives in it but actually its because of your salary. Salary comes from the Latin word SALAR- salt. Soldiers in the roman empire were paid in salt and when they saw the salty lake they thought they'd hit the jackpot. But these salts aren't only cooking salt ions and if you consume too much, you'll end up dead.
As you drive along the shore you'll see two nature reserves that have beautiful springs. This might be your first chance to experience an oasis at Ein Gedi or Einot Tzukim. Two historical sites are also nearby, Qumran- where Dead Sea scrolls were found and the fortress of Masada. Read more about planning your trip to Masada and the Dead Sea.
Further south you'll get a glance of the lifeline of the southern basin. Gradually you'll start seeing the hotels, shops and beaches of the southern base. There is a public beach next to Lot hotel and the Zohar spring that are fresh and free. As you continue down you'll see alien looking factories that manufacture mostly fertilizers and chemicals. After the factories is Mt Sodom that is made out of salt and offers salt caves, amazing night treks and viewpoints.
Friendly suggestions for the first timer:
Remove silver jewelry as silver chemically reacts with the salt water
If you have fresh wounds brace yourself, it'll hurt
But only briefly. They will heal better and be disinfected
Step in carefully, underwater rocks might braze your skin
As you step into the water it will feel as if you are being pushed out. It's not you, it's the 30% salts
Try to sit back and then float on your back
Once comfortable try swimming around
Gently, no big movements
Because you don't want salt water in your eyes
Drink a lot of water
You may apply sunscreen but the UV radiation is greatly filtered out by extra layer of atmosphere it passes before reaching you at -431m below sea level.
There are lockers and showers on the beaches, use them. Your skin will love you on the way back.
If you aren't at a public beach make sure you have enough water. If you thought X is more than enough then go for 3X waters.
The Israeli Holiday Blog is looking for writers! Send in your best tips and experiences about travel in Israel. Read more about the idea behind the Israeli Holiday Project.
About the writer, Anna Kreynin
Anna is a licensed tour guide, an artist, a french fry eater, a dog petter and above all a storyteller. She is in love with Jerusalem and she can tell you all about it.