Dying Dead Sea

This post was originally begun on January 12, while we were still in Jerusalem, just outside of the Old City. After working on a draft I decided against publishing any longer until I had returned to the States. You’ll find out why later. I have left part of it in its original format and added to is since then.

Sorry, friends. The internet in our lodging wasn’t all I would dream for it to be.  So, it makes it a bit difficult to get to the interwebs long enough to manage these things. What did we do before the video killed the radio star?

Saturday, we headed to a day quite the opposite from the day before it. Still as challenging, but in different ways. And there was a lot more laughter this time instead of managing crowds and pickpockets. We began our morning at En Gedi, the place where it is said that David went and hid from Saul in the wilderness. Instead of having hundreds of people there, there were a few locals there for a hike and some photo shoots. The first hike was simple enough; maybe 15 minutes. Along the way were hyrax: tail-less beaver looking animals whose closest relative is actually the elephant.

At the lower of the 2 springs, David would have encountered this on his retreat into the wilderness.

The lower of the two waterfalls.
The lower of the two waterfalls.

After this we continued along the path up towards the main waterfall. Mind you, all of this is fed by a spring in the ground. Meaning freshwater. We aren’t at the Dead sea yet.

Clearly, our hike was successful. It was relaxing and physically demanding in ways that it wasn’t within the Old city walls. It helped us to clear our minds and relax a bit. The first day was a day of overwhelming, dashing to and fro in large crowds. Today was about listening and not worrying about the markets or being trampled on.

Katie and I after our hike to the larger of the two waterfalls.
Katie and I after our hike to the larger of the two waterfalls.

After this, we made our way over to the original home of the Dead Sea scrolls, Qumran. Like En Gedi, it was dry and arid but not too overwhelming as far as people go. The theory is the Essenes (possibly a group John the Baptist was associated with for a while), were the writers of the scrolls, hid them in the remote caves they lived in, and abandoned them there in jars to hide them from invading Romans. Well, their plan clearly worked; maybe a little too well. Probably meaning to come back for them, they were left for generations until a small Bedouin boy came across them while herding his sheep. The rest is history.

Cave no. 4 where the most complete scroll was found, the book of Isaiah.
Cave no. 4 where the most complete scroll was found, the book of Isaiah.

Here, in Cave no. 4, was found the most complete of all the scrolls, the book  of Isaiah. Interestingly enough, there was no book of Ester ever found in any of these caves. Theories speculated several things: first maybe because she was a woman she was not written down. But that makes little sense as we have the book of Ruth. So, that one’s out. Another theory is that because it is a book that never once mentions God, it was never recorded. I don’t know enough about the book of Ester to make some deep claim about it, but if I had to make my own claim I’d say because it probably isn’t a true story, and that’s why you won’t find it here among the clay jars and dirt.

After Qumron it was time for the part that many of us had been waiting for: the Dead Sea. Now, some background on the Dead Sea. It’s called the Dead Sea because nothing can live in it. Where the ocean is 3% salt to water, this body of water is 30% salt to water. So, you can’t swim in it. You can only float. And if you drink it, it could possibly kill you. This is also the lowest place on the earth, just below 1,400 ft. sea level.

Also, the Dead Sea is dying.

This is the part that hurts when you think about it. Initially, the Sea was fed by the River Jordan. We all know what that is, and if you don’t that’s why Wikipedia exists. While fed by the Jordan, it was always replenished. There is mud there, rich with minerals for one’s skin, and a beautiful foreground for the country of Jordan just on the other side. As you look around, it is easy to see how much in the last 20 or 30 years, the Sea has lowered. Now, they didn’t cut off the Jordan just to spite the Dead Sea. The Jordan provides drinking water. Sadly, this is drinking water going to people settling in a land that is simply not equipped to handle them. So by living in these areas that are living off the Jordan River unnaturally, they are literally killing the current landscape and sadly, this means that soon, the Dead Sea will be no more.

A view of the Dead Sea from the road.
A view of the Dead Sea from the road and the erosion that has taken place.

For me, this death of the Dead Sea cries out to abuse of land, a land that is being changed to support people living where the land did not intend for them to live. As Christians, we call this being poor stewards of the earth. For some, it is called creating a nation-state. Either way you spin it, it yields the same results, the death of something that features in Biblical history and something that will never again be regained: no matter what. Leaving the land bare, and also taking away of future profits for those who run the mineral plants. It’s tit for tat, but not in a positive way.

I was sad to leave the Dead Sea, knowing that if I ever return, it will be smaller and maybe inaccessible by that point. But Jericho called our names. A lush city, it is also home to the oldest settlement known to human kind. A bronze age community that is still being unearthed and that will take your breath away.

Bronze Age City in Jericho.
Bronze Age City in Jericho.

It’s a bit weird to see such old remains and know where they came from but still pretty cool.

Well, friends. This was the post I worked on, nothing scandalous in my opinion, but still I felt it safer to refrain for a while. Check back in for the rest of the trip.

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