The Dead Sea is a must-see for obvious reasons. It is a very trippy sensation to sit in water, and then not sink. The Dead Sea is nearly ten times saltier than the oceans. One drop in your eye will or on an open blister will make the experience even more memorable. This spot is 1,412 ft (430m) below sea level, making it the lowest (and therefore hottest) place on Earth.
I entered barefoot, which was not the wisest choice. There are shelves of sharp salt crystals before you get to the loamy, therapeutic mud, which sells for $15 a bag in the gift store.
The Dead Sea is employed as a landmark in the Bible several times. For example, Deuteronomy 3:17: “the Arabah also, with the Jordan [River] as the border, from Chinnereth [Sea of Galilee] as far as the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, under the slopes of Pisgah on the east.”
The sea is fed by the rainfall in the Sea of Galilee (which is not a sea, but a lake, as it is a freshwater body), which then feeds the Jordan River, which then dumps all that fresh water into the Dead Sea, at which point it becomes useless. Because of that perceived wastage of potable water in a region where people frequently suffer from drought conditions, much of the water of Galilee via the Jordan is now used to irrigate crops and supply water to populated areas.
This has resulted in an unprecedented shrinkage of the size of the Dead Sea. The water level is dropping at a rate of three feet per year, and the surface area has dropped by 33% since the 1960s when water from the Jordan River started to be diverted. The shores are retracting at a rate of a few feet per year, leaving salty swamps and dangerous sinkholes. There is no telling what effect the death of the Dead Sea will have on the ecology of the region. But for those who take a literal, futurist interpretation of eschatological texts, there is hope for the Dead Sea.
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar…And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah [yup, that’s the Dead Sea], and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:1, 8-12)
According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, in the end times, a river will spring up on the Temple Mount, and will eventually replenish the Dead Sea so that life can thrive there. But fresh, living water already flows into the Dead Sea. That water does nothing to dilute the salinity. It just becomes salty and lifeless itself. So, it may be that the current draining of the Dead Sea will eventually result in an empty sea, that can then be filled up by fresh water, never to be dead again. Interestingly, verse 11 says, “But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.” So the current proliferation of salty swampland will be a permanent feature, sustaining the ecology that already exists there.
The novelty of the experience in the water is unrivaled, and the sense of proximity to the oasis of Ein Gedi is striking when experienced firsthand. Also, the mud is great for your skin!
This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.