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The Dead Sea Is...Dying

Today was one of those days where things didn’t exactly go to plan. Our tour guide, David, drove us from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Since the last time that I was here 45 years ago, the shoreline has receded several hundred metres; that’s right. The sea is dying for two main reasons. The Jordan River, which feeds into the Dead Sea, has had most of its water diverted to Jordan in a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. In addition, mining on both sides is reducing run off from the mountains. It is in danger of disappearing altogether.

Our first stop was at a site called Qumran which is famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient parchment which contain several original texts of the Bible. They were discovered by a Bedouin boy in the caeves of Qumran.

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From Qumran we drove the highway south towards one of the most important sites in Jewish history, Masada. This was a fortress palace built by King Herod. The Jews of Jerusalem who rebelled against the Romans around 66 C.E., drove the Romans out, but then Titus returned with a vengeance in 69 C.E. and a group of Jews fled to the fortress site of Masada. Eventually, the Romans had Masada under siege and rather than be captured, the Jews killed their family members and committed suicide.

It turned out that we couldn’t drive to Masada as a sinkhole opened up on the highway. Sinkholes are now a major problem because the salt water table is dropping and fresh water is undermining the ground. We did back track and go back to an oasis called En Gedi which has water falls and some archaeological finds however, even there, we were prevented from hiking very far due to the threats of flash flooding.

(We later heard that nine students were killed with others injured when they were swept up in raging waters.)

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Our final stop for the day, as rain approached us in the desert, was a gentleman named Guy Erlich who is growing ancient plants used during the time of the Israelites such as Balm of Gilead, frankincense and myrrh. We got to sample some of the resins and scents. He hopes with enough financing to create a thriving industry. One thing for sure, this man has a passion for his unique agricultural venture. There also was an American native couple of the Cherokee tribe and the man had found out that he was part Jewish, so he had come to explore his Jewish roots.

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Posted by PassionRetirees 20:39 Archived in Israel

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