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The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea: how low can you go?
The Dead Sea situated in eastern Israel is a unique location. At 400 meters (1,320 feet) below sea level it is the lowest place on earth. The Dead Sea is located in the Judean Desert area, a part of the Syrian - East Africa Rift Valley, flanked by the Judean mountains to the west and the Moab mountains to the east.
This region enjoys sunny and dry weather through out the year. On average it has 330 full days of sunshine per year. The low altitude also has other benefits as the ultraviolet rays are filtered through three natural layers: an extra atmospheric layer, an evaporation layer that exists above The Dead Sea, and a rather thick ozone layer. Yet because the powerful sunshine it is recommended to sunbathe carefully.
The Dead Sea is names so because the water, due to extensive evaporation, is extremely high in salts and mineral, and unsuitable for fish to live in. The Dead Sea is Called “Yam Hamelach” or Sea of salt in Hebrew. The high salinity of the water allows you to float upon them with no effort. Why swim when you can float?
King David, King Herod, Jesus, and John the Baptist were closely linked with The Dead Sea area. The infamous towns of Sodom and Gomorra were situated here. During the Egyptian conquest it is said that Queen Cleopatra obtained exclusive rights to build cosmetic and pharmaceutical factories in the area. The Nabateans, a desert people, sold bitumen extracted from The Dead Sea to the Egyptians for embalming their mummies. In Roman times, on the heights of Massada, a small group of rebellious Jewish zealots held out against the might of the Roman Legion until their fall. This region also attracted Greek Orthodox monks since the Byzantine era who found it a perfect place for serene meditation. Their monasteries such as Saint George in Wadi Kelt and Mar Saba in the Judean Desert are beautiful and well worth a visit. Bedouin tribes been living in this area for time uncounted and still maintain a distinct lifestyle.
Although away from the physical location of The Dead Sea and now part of the library of congress in New York, the famous Dead Sea scrolls, believed to be dated from the third century B.C.E. are also a part of the history of the area. The scrolls are a body of documents describing the rich activity during that period of the second Jewish temple, and invoke intense public interest and some controversy.
The beneficial and medicinal properties of The Dead Sea water and mud have been known for centuries. These have been sought after since the days of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Today many spas have been built on the shores of The Dead Sea in order to allow people to enjoy the healing properties of the mud and water. As a health spa, The Dead Sea offers patients an opportunity to treat various ailments while enjoying the kind of relaxation that strengthens the treatment. Many visitors return year after year for long-term relief.
Natural Beauty of the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea region is an arid are with striking desert beauty. This desert landscape is dotted with fresh water oases which are important sources of water for local wildlife. The Einut Zukim (Ein Fesh'ha) nature reserve, located in the northern Dead Sea has fresh water pools & streams, a bathing beach, and a unique biosphere for birds of song.
The Ein Gedi Nature reserve is a spectacular desert oasis, with cool fresh water pools and waterfalls, and abundant wildlife including ibex, leopards and many species of birds.
Places of Interest
Her are a few of the many tourist attraction of this area:
St George Monastery An historical Greek Orthodox church active since 900 AD. Located in Wadi Kelt, a deep ravine running east-west between Jerusalem, the Judean Hills and Jericho. Jericho believed to be the oldest city in the world. Today it is a thriving market town with the archaeological remains of a 7th century palace and ancient synagogue.
A major historical and archaeological site in the area. Herod's mountain fortress, held by zealot Jews resisting the Roman occupation.
The Dead Sea is easily accessed from Jerusalem (1 hour), Tel- Aviv (2 hours) or Arad (30 minutes).