On the way to the Dead Sea
Leaving Beit Shean, we began the 2-hour bus trip to the Dead Sea. Most of the way was along the Jordan River, and the border with Jordan. Note there is a fence between the two countries and the river itself is not very wide. Most of the ground on the Israel side seems to be wild flowers and grasses; the Jordanian side in this area appears more mountainous.
We stopped for lunch at this cafe
After a bit of trepidation, Tom decides the lunch salad is very tasty
We noticed that this cafe seems to be a favorite with local Israeli soldiers.
Big rigs are used in Israel to haul many things, just like in the States, but we had never seen one hauling a tank before.
More views along the Jordan River border
We passed a peculiar lemonade stand (?) near a sign warning visitors against being off the road after dark in 3 languages.
In spite of the desolate desert landscape along much of the road, there were signs of modern agriculture.
The Dead Sea area
As we approached the Dead Sea area we were confronted with a new sign indicating danger — not from mines, but from sink-holes. There are more than 4,000 sink-holes in the Dead Sea area, and more are appearing every year, apparently due to the rapid shrinkage of the Dead Sea itself. The Sea surface is shrinking about 3 feet per year, due mainly to two problems:
- The Jordan River upstream is used for water — such that the river now only provides a 20th of the water it used to bring to the Dead Sea per year, and
- Removal of water by the Dead Sea Works which mines the salt and minerals at the Dead Sea itself.
As the water recedes, fresh water wells up from deep underground, dissolves salt, and creates the sink-holes. Many of them arise along the seismic fault lines in the Jordan Rift Valley where the salt is “less stable” … whatever that means. Below are some sink-holes. NOT for swimming in.
Several plans have been proposed over the past 150 years to preserve the level of the Dead Sea and to prevent future sink-holes, but besides their questionable impact on the environment – and questionable success as far as actually fixing the problem – all these plans require the cooperation of Israel’s neighboring countries, which complicates matters.
Sinkholes notwithstanding, lovely modern hotels line the shores
We stayed at this one (below) called Ganim, which means “Gardens.”
On the way, we passed the sign for a spa “named for” our son, Zohar. The Hebrew actually says “Hamei Zohar” which would mean literally “hot waters of brilliance” … or maybe “brilliantly hot waters,” since “Zohar” means brilliantly shining … but is rendered here as simply “Zohar Spa” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English – the three languages appearing on most signs in Israel.
Although we did don bathing suits and go into the Dead Sea, we didn’t bring our cameras to the water, so we have no pictures. It wasn’t actually a swim, anyhow, since once in the water we could neither swim nor even sit up, but we just sort of floated like animated corks. Tom put his hat on his tummy and it never got wet. Standing up and leaving was a project in itself worthy of a slapstick film, let alone a picture, but we will have to make do with a picture of the piece of salt we harvested ourselves from the Sea bottom. Today it is displayed on a shelf at home but carefully sealed into a plastic covering to keep it from melting or crumbling, as it would quickly do if left open.