Sing: For the Beauty of the Earth, UMH 92
We had our lunch at Qumran National Park and then headed down to the shore of the Dead Sea. About half of our group wanted to float in the sea. Nader (our guide) told us not to think of it as swimming because he said we did not want to dive into the water or get our heads under the water. He did not explain why except to say that the extra buoyancy of the water, that is ten times as salty as ocean water, makes it very hard to stay under. I waded in and remained in a standing position as I paddled out to where I could not touch the bottom. I was floating without any effort with my armpits out of the water!
The real reason for not diving into the water or putting your head underwater is that the water tastes terrible! Take my word for it – you do not want to get even a little bit of this water in your mouth or on your lips. I did get some in my mouth accidentally and it was horrible (it did not taste salty at all). I do not like the taste of alcohol but since one of my bus mates had a beer I asked if I could take a swig to get that horrible taste out of my mouth. I took a swig of beer and swished it around in my mouth and then rubbed some of the beer on my lips to get the taste off them as well – wonderful relief!
The Dead Sea is quickly approaching the 1,400 feet below sea level mark. The water level is dropping an average of about three feet per year due to the diversion of fresh water from the Jordan River Valley into Israel and Jordan. This diversion of the inflow of fresh water also means the minerals in the Dead Sea (minerals like magnesium chloride and potassium in the form of potash which is harvested from evaporation pans at the southern end of the sea) become more concentrated – and make the water taste worse. There are no fish in the Dead Sea and very few boats operate here.
The low humidity, high air pressure, therapeutic water, and soothing black mud still attract many visitors today as it did Herod the Great and Cleopatra in the 1st century BC. Some of our group used this time to treat themselves to a mud bath. Dead Sea skin products are popular in Israel and around the world. But the continued drop in water level is making it hard for the seaside spas to survive. One day this will all be healed.