Dead Sea Attractions Yam Hamelach
Southern District and West BankSituation and characteristicsThe Dead Sea (Hebrew Yam Hamelach, "Salt Sea"; Arabic Bahr Lut, "Sea of Lot") lies between Israel and Jordan, 398m/1,306ft below sea level, making it the lowest point on the surface of the earth.
It is a "dead" sea because of the high salt content (25-30%, compared with 3.5% in the Mediterranean) of its water, in which neither plants nor animals can live.With a length of 76km/47mi and a maximum breadth of 16km/10mi, this inland lake has an area of some 1,000sq.km/385sq.mi. It is divided by a peninsula projecting from the eastern shore into a smaller southern section with a depth of only 4-6m/13-20ft and a larger northern section up to 433m/1,421ft deep.The main inflow of water into the Dead Sea comes from the Jordan. It has no outlet, but in the hot climate of the area (annual mean temperature over 25°C/77°F) the rate of evaporation is so high that hitherto the water level has remained almost constant. In recent years, however, so much water has been diverted from the Sea of Galilee that the inflow of water into the Dead Sea from the Jordan has been reduced and the water level has fallen. As a result the northern and southern sections are now completely separated by the peninsula. The reduced inflow of fresh water means that the salt content is becoming even higher. In order to compensate for the loss of water it was planned to construct a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, passing through the Gaza Strip; but there have now been second thoughts about the plan, and it is being considered whether water could be brought in from the Red Sea.SceneryA trip to the Dead Sea is undoubtedly one of the great experiences of a visit to Israel. At many points round it, particularly in the southern part, where the salt content is even higher than in the northern part, there are bizarre salt rock formations rising high above the water. As a result of the high rate of evaporation there is usually a veil of mist over the lake and the surrounding desert.Bathing in the Dead SeaA no less unusual experience is a dip in the Dead Sea. It is almost impossible to dive into the water, and it is perfectly possible to read a newspaper while floating on the surface. The best publicly accessible beaches are at En Boqeq and En Gedi. It is advisable when bathing in the Dead Sea to avoid immersing your eyes, nose or mouth; and after bathing a shower is essential to wash off the sticky salt water.Biblical traditionThe salt landscape at the south end of the Dead Sea, with its salt caves, was the scene of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by fire and brimstone for their vices. On Abraham's intercession God spared only his nephew Lot and Lot's two daughters, who went to Zohar (to the west of the Dead Sea) and then to a cave in the hills, where the two sisters became pregnant by their father and bore Moab and Ben-ammi, progenitors of the Moabites and the Ammonites (Genesis 19). Above a salt cave near present-day Sedom (Sodom) is a pillar of salt, said to be Lot's wife.Spa treatmentThe water of the Dead Sea has not only the highest salt content in the world but also the highest mineral content, with an extraordinarily high concentration of bromine, magnesium, potassium and iodine. The air is also extraordinarily dry (maximum humidity in summer 35%) and pollen-free. The healing powers of the Dead Sea were already recognized in ancient times: it is said that Cleopatra "took the cure" here, and both Aristotle and Pliny the Elder refer to the beneficial effects of the water. In our own day numbers of people come to the Dead Sea seeking alleviation or cure for skin diseases like psoriasis, neurodermatitis, chronic eczema and parachroma, bronchial disorders and rheumatism of the muscles or joints. In recent years En Boqeq and Newe Zohar in particular, with their hot springs, have developed into popular spas. Visitors who go to one of the Dead Sea resorts for the treatment of certain diseases have a prospect of an improvement in their condition - though this can, of course, be judged only by a doctor in a particular case - but prospective patients should be aware that spa treatment is not all pleasure. With the prevailing high temperatures the solar treatment which is frequently prescribed can be trying for many people, and the entertainment facilities, particularly for the young, are very limited indeed.Industrial usesThe asphalt deposits which from time to time are washed up from under the Dead Sea were already exploited by the Egyptians and Nabataeans. Nowadays the Dead Sea Works at the south end of the Dead Sea extract potash and bromine from the water.
Places of interest on the west side of the Dead Sea are Masada, En Gedi and Qumran. There are also a number of ruined castles in the hills near its western shore. The most southerly of these, Mezad Zohar, which dates from Byzantine times, stands on a small rocky cone on the old valley road, in wild mountain country. The road which runs up from Newe Zohar, near the south end of the Dead Sea, in the direction of Arad comes - before reaching the sign marking sea level - to two fine viewpoints. From the lower one there is a breathtaking view, particularly at sunset, of the Dead Sea and the hills of Jordan; from the upper one there is a prospect of Mezad Zohar far below.
Situation and characteristicsArad is a rising modern town a few kilometers northwest of the Dead Sea. Founded only in 1961, it has attractive residential districts and in its barren surroundings has something of the aspect of a green oasis. Its altitude and desert climate, with dry and pollen-free air, make it an ideal resort for sufferers from asthma. The existing spa facilities are to be developed to make Arad an international medical center. The town is best known, however, for the important archeological site on Tel Arad.