The Dead Sea is 65 km long and 18 km across at its widest point.  To the east are the mountains of Moab, birthplace of Ruth the Moabite (Ruth 1:4). To the west are the Judean Mountains. Millions of years ago the Dead Sea was sweet water, as is the Sea of Galilee today. Water flowed out of the southern end continued through the Arava and on to the Gulf of Eilat and the Red Sea.

Millennia of geological changes have sealed the southern end and, due to the extreme heat and very high rate of evaporation, the trapped water has a salt content of 35% and its buoyancy keeps even those unable to swim afloat. The area is, and always has been, earthquake prone and the eastern shore is still slowly but inexorably moving northwards. Although there is no life in the Dead Sea it is rich in chemicals which are commercially extracted by both Israel and Jordan.

Sulfur springs, therapeutic mud, enriched water combined with the fact that the Dead Sea is almost four hundred meters below sea level make the resorts on the shores of the Dead Sea a major health attraction. At this depth the ozone layer offers protection to sufferers of psoriasis who are able to benefit from full exposure to the sun.

Extensive use of the water, before it reaches the Dead Sea as well as less rain have caused the level to recede and sink holes to appear on the exposed shore line. Although the northern section is possibly as much as four hundred meters in depth the southern end is barely fifteen meters deep.

As the chemicals can only be extracted from the sea bed water is pumped to the much smaller and shallower southern section, where the Dead Sea Works are located, from the deep northern section. Today there is a land bridge between the two sections and one can cross from Israel to Jordan on dry land. Although many believe this is because we, Israel and Jordan, use the water meant for the Dead Sea we know from historical sources that there were times when one could cross from the Judean Desert to the Mountains of Moab on dry land.

Opposite the land bridge, on a hill isolated by erosion, is the Herodian fortress of Masada where nine hundred and sixty Jewish zealots tried in vain to withstand the Roman siege. Masada fell in 73CE.

Known for its earthquakes, the first one we read about was in Gen 19:24 & 26. “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven: … But his wife looked out from behind him, and she became a pillar of saltAnd Abraham got up early in the morning   … And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah … and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.”

Where is the Dead sea

The Dead Sea, Yam haMelach, Sea of Salt in Hebrew, is part of the Great Rift Valley which stretches from Asia Minor to Africa. It is fed by the Jordan River in the north and flash floods of rain in the Judean Mountains to the west and the Jordanian mountains of Moab to the east.

Overlooking the north western corner of the Dead Sea, in a National Park, are the archeological excavations of Qumran and the cave where many of the two thousand year old Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  Towering above them are caves where more discoveries were made.

About thirty kilometers southwards is the nature reserve and oasis of Ein Gedi, where David hid from the wrath of Saul (I Sam 24:1). In the grounds of this National Park one can hike up to the waterfalls or simply sit and enjoy the ibex, gazelle and hyrax rabbits at close range. A further fifteen kilometers is the Herodian fortress-palace of Masada.

Finally, at Ein Bokek on the south western shore, are the many hotels, restaurants and stores which provide services to those visiting the Dead Sea, whether for recreation or for a health cure.

Weather: in the Dead sea

As the Dead Sea is over 400 meters below sea level the heat of the summer months is made bearable because of the almost total lack of humidity. During the winter, despite the cold desert nights, for the hardy it is warm enough to swim during the day. On an average there are about ten days of rain at the Dead Sea but even when the sky is blue and the sun shining there can be a flash flood caused by rain falling in the hills around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron to the west.

Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)

Other sites in this area

Ein Gedi

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The inn of the Good Samaritan

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Masada

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