Dead Sea Tourism
The Dead Sea in Israel is a tourist attraction for people from all over the world because it is a natural health spa – only an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, and a 2 hours’ drive from Tel Aviv. It’s warm there all year round and has become a popular vacation destination. The western (Israeli) shore offers convenient beaches, dozens of hotels, and guest houses. The Dead Sea’s unusually high salt concentration means that people can easily float in the Dead Sea due to natural buoyancy.
The Name of the Sea
The Dead Sea isn’t a sea at all – it’s actually a hypersaline lake. In Hebrew it is called ” Yam HaMelach” (ים המלח), meaning “Sea of Salt”:-
All these came as allies unto the vale of Siddim–the same is the Salt Sea. (Genesis 14:3)
Although the Bible also calls this body of water “Sea of the Aravah” and the “Eastern Sea”, the name “Dead Sea” never appears in the Bible. The Nabateans exported asphalt to the Egyptians who used Dead Sea Salt Asphalt from the Dead Sea in their mummification process, fertilizers, and potash . In Arabic the Dead Sea is called al-Bahr al-Mayyit (“the Dead Sea”).
Asphalt in the Dead Sea
The Greeks called it Lake Asphaltites due to its bitumen content. The Romans referred to the Dead Sea as “Palus Asphaltites” (Asphalt Lake). Asphalt often rises to the surface of the water in the Dead Sea. Dead Sea Asphalt was also used as a natural biocidal agent in agricultural practices in ancient times.
Dead Sea Health
It provides health treatments and therapies, as the waters are rich with minerals (chloride salts of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and bromine). The unique mineral composition of the Dead Sea has been known to help treat acne, psoriasis, hives, cellulite, dry skin, dandruff, stress, and muscle aches. About 80%-90% of psoriasis patients visiting the Dead Sea for treatment experience significant improvement in their skin. Dead Sea Salt is not suitable for consumption and is for bath/spa use only. King Solomon is said to have made gifts of Dead Sea Salts to the Queen of Sheba.
And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants. (1 Kings Chapter 10, 13)
Marc Anthony attempted to conquer the area for the legendary Queen Cleopatra, who sought its beautifying qualities.
Dead Sea Geology
This salt lake resides in a depression in the Earth’s crust, where the continents of Africa and Asia are pulling away from each other. It’s the lowest point on the earth (427 meters below sea level). The sea itself is 304 m deep. The widest dimensions are 50 km by 15 km. The water has one of the highest concentration of salt in the world: – salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2%. (The hypersaline pond of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica such as Don Juan Pond (44%) has the highest salinity.) Typical ocean water is approximately 3.5%. The Dead Sea lies in the Jordan Rift Valley -a 4,000-mile fault line in the earth’s crust. Its main tributary is the Holy Jordan River. Water flows in no water flows out.
There is no form of life in the sea due to the salinity. Plants and animals cannot flourish.
The Dead Sea is located in between Jordan (to the east) and Israel (to the west). The lowest road in the world, Route 90, passes by the Dead Sea.
Check out this aerial view of the Dead Sea!
History and the Dead Sea
- Sodom and Gomorrah, mentioned in the Book of Genesis, were on its southeastern shore.
- Ein Gedi, now a nature reserve near the Dead Sea, is mentioned in the Bible as the place where King David hid from Saul.
- Jewish zealots fled to Masada (a fortress built by King Herod overlooking the Dead Sea) following the destruction of the Second Temple, in the year 70 C.E. In 73 C.E. they were sieged there by the Roman X Legion, and chose to die by mass suicide rather than surrender.
- The the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the late 1940s and early 1950. They include hundreds of religious documents dating from the period between 150 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. The scrolls were found in the Qumran Caves, about 1.6 km from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.
ThePalestine Potash Company was founded in 1929. The first plant was established at Kalia, at the northern end of the Dead Sea, in 1930. In 1934 another larger plant was established at Sodom, on the southern shore of the Dead Sea. During the War of Independence, the potash plant at the north of the Dead Sea was destroyed and the southern plant was shut down. In 1952, a new company, the Dead Sea Works, with the concession to produce potash, was established by the government. In 1995, the company was privatized and it is now owned by Israel Chemicals. In the modern era, the company produces sodium chloride and potassium chloride, potash products, magnesium chloride, industrial salts, de-icers, bath salts, table salt, and raw materials for the cosmetic industry.
Recession and Environmental Concerns
In recent decades, the Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking. The water of the Jordan river has been diverted to Israel and Jordan for other purposes. The Dead Sea Works has been blamed by conservationists for polluting the environment and contributing to the Dead Sea’s slow evaporation. As the water level decreases, the characteristics of the Sea and surrounding region has undergone substantial change, causing the appearance of large sinkholes along the western shore.