Many of you have been there as part of your tours of Israel, or perhaps Jordan. You may have taken a hike in the oasis of Ein Gedi, or made your way past the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. You may even have climbed the Snake Path to the top of Masada, where, in 73-74 CE, 960 Jews committed mass suicide to avoid being captured and enslaved by the advancing army of the Roman Empire.
You may also have marveled at the novelty of the Dead Sea, where, because of its chemical and mineral content, you could not sink – you were totally buoyant. It was as if you were lying back in a reclining beach chair. Even more enticing to many are the purported health benefits offered by theDead Sea’s mineral properties. There are few other places on earth where you will sit on a beach and watch most of the people there covered in black mud, slathered all over their bodies, in order to ease various ailments. But for the tens of thousands of people who didn’t visit the Dead Sea in person and still seeking its cosmetic and health benefits, manufacturers have obliged by creating creams and other products of the magical waters and selling them around the world.
At 31 miles long, 9 miles wide at its widest point, 997 feet deep at its deepest level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. It is more than 10 times saltier than ocean water. As a result, only bacteria grow in it. Because of its unique character, the Sea was recently under construction as one of the seven wonders of the world.
It sounds like one of the most exotic places on earth to visit. Unfortunately, the Dead Sea is in danger of dying. It is receding at an alarming rate. While there is not single reason for the damage being done to the Sea, it is believed that several factors are contributing to it, such as greater evaporation caused by global warming, the damming of the Jordan River upstream, refuse being dumped into the river and the Sea, and the extraction of minerals, etc., by industrial interests. And although nothing grows in the Dead Sea itself, there is much life in the surrounding desert that may suffer dire consequences as a result of the shrinking Sea. Only three years ago, Israel and Jordan signed an agreement to address the shrinking Dead Sea as part of a broader effort, but it appears that the cost of this effort and questions about whether it might cause more harm than good, has caused enough political opposition to stall, if not kill, the effort. Unless a solution to its problems can be found soon, many scientists fear that this great salt sea will be a mere puddle by 2050.
One person is trying to do something to save this world treasure. Israeli photojournalist Noam Bedein has made saving the Dead Sea his life’s ambition. I read about Noam’s efforts several months ago and contacted him before my wife, Niki, and I made our most recent visit to Israel last month. Noam arranged for us to join other photographers and interested parties on an exclusive boat expedition of the Dead Sea. We observed salt formations, caves, canyons, and sinkholes that looked as if they were on the surface of an alien planet.
While hauntingly beautiful, it was alarming to see Noam’s documentation of the Sea’s receding shores. Noam has complied thousands of photographs and uses them in lectures around the world in his effort to garner greater understanding of and support for actions to save this wonder of the world. Raising awareness of this tragedy in the making is the first of many steps required to ensure that the Dead Sea remains one of the wonders of the world and provides joy and benefits for generations to come.
You can read more about Noam’s Dead Sea story on his website.
The rest of my photos from our Dead Sea excursion can be viewed on my website.