When we were in Israel, the weather was very unusual! (I can hear those of you who were on the trip laughing and I’m sorry, Shimon, but I had to get that in there somewhere!) As we continued our journey toward the Dead Sea, the plan had been to travel straight south through the West Bank, but mudslides caused by recent rains had closed that highway. An optional route through the disputed Palestinian territory was considered, but it was deemed unsafe as tour buses like ours are often stoned along that road! Instead, we took a much longer route that skirted around the West Bank.
As we traveled south, we left the fertile valleys of northern Israel where we saw fruit orchards and green fields and entered the desert where very little grows. As we began our descent toward the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on the planet at 427 metres below sea level, it was reminiscent of driving down into the Drumheller Valley here in Alberta, but on a much grander scale. Completely barren except for the occasional acacia tree, it had a strange beauty of it’s own. Suddenly the fears and grumbling of the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years in the desert, took on a whole new meaning for me. Without God’s provision of water, quail and manna, survival would have been absolutely impossible! (Exodus 16:1-17:7)
As soon as we’d settled into our hotel, most of us headed down to the beach. There was no way that the 13ºC (55ºF) air temperature was going to keep us from floating in the Dead Sea! This was our once in a lifetime chance and nothing was going to stop us!
I knew that the Dead Sea was significantly saltier than the ocean, making it much easier to float in, but I had no idea that it was actually more than 8 times as salty! In fact, I think it would be impossible not to float in it! Or perhaps I should say, on it, as the buoyancy is so great that your body really does seem to lie on top of the water. All one has to do is lie back and your legs automatically rise to the surface. It actually takes effort to push them back down into the water to stand up! The high salinity makes the Dead Sea a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name and the very bleak appearance of the seaside area.
Eventually the cold drove us back into the hotel where we spent well over an hour soaking in the heated indoor/outdoor pool that is filled with water from the sea. What a wonderful way to unwind after the intensity of the trip so far! Most of us stayed in the water until the salt began to make our skin tingle. Afterward, even the men commented on how awesome and smooth their skin felt!