Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Dead Sea, Israel

The Dead Sea, which lies between Israel and Jordan, is approximately 30 miles long, 9 miles wide at its widest point, and 990 feet deep. The Jordan River feeds into the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. In the Bible, the Dead Sea is referred to as the "Valley of Siddim,"* the "Sea of Arabah,"** and the "eastern sea."***

Two superlatives are associated with the Dead Sea. One, the surface of the Dead Sea, which lies 1,418 feet below the sea level, is the lowest point on the earth's surface. Two, the Dead Sea is the earth's saltiest body of water. Its 34% salt content is ten times more salty than the ocean and precludes marine life, hence its name.

In recent years, the water level of the Dead Sea has been receding at an alarming rate, due mainly to the water of the Jordan River being diverted by both Israel and the country of Jordan for human and farming uses. Had the above photograph of the Dead Sea, taken from Masada, been taken two decades earlier, more of the dry lake bed in the foreground still would have been covered by the Dead Sea's blue water. Many resort hotels built on its former shore either have closed or now ferry their guests, including by using tractors, across the dry lake bed to the receding shoreline.

Travel Tip
The formerly popular Dead Sea beach at Ein Gedi has closed due to dangerous sink holes caused by the receding water. Ein Bokek near the southern tip of the Dead Sea and Kalia Beach (below) near its northern tip remain open, at least for now.

Dead Sea Kalia Beach

A trip to the Dead Sea is often combined with a visit to Qumran Caves near Kalia Beach, and/or Masada, which is near Ein Bokek. Kalia Beach is closer to Jerusalem, charges a fee, and requires a hike from the entrance down to the waterline (above).

Be advised that the Dead Sea's salt content makes its water extremely buoyant and viscous. Diving into or trying to swim in what feels like liquid rubber are not advised. Recommended activities include floating and bathing in its mud, preferably before or after the scorching midday sun.

* And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). (Genesis 14:1-3)

** "Also I gave Gilead to Machir. And to the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave from Gilead as far as the River Arnon, the middle of the river as the border, as far as the River Jabbok, the border of the people of Ammon; the plain also, with the Jordan as the border, from Chinnereth as far as the east side of the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea), below the slopes of Pisgah." (Deuteronomy 3:15-17)

** So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:14-16)

*** Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations. But I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern sea and his back toward the western sea; his stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things." (Joel 2:18-20)