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Travel: Boating on the Dead Sea , Israel April 4-5/2021

Updated: Jan 17




From the Mediterranean in the West to the Dead Sea- in the East


Hwy 1 which stretches, all the way up from Tel-Aviv, on the Mediterranean sea,

by-passes Jerusalem, then continues down via Malle Edomim, through the Judean desert mountains, and reaches Hwy 90, near Jericho, at Arabah Rift Valley. amazingly, landed us, in less than an hour an half car drive, at the Northern tip of Yam Hamelch - the Sea of Salt.


The Judean desert dramatic mountain scenery, we drove through, was dotted with clusters of illegal tent settlements of nomad Bedouins. Their rock climbing herd of sheep and goats, hanging off the many steep mountainous cliffs. were grazing at the after rain, short-lived greenery plum.




Kalia intersection, right by where Hwy 1 meets hwy 90, and where the guided tour we joined, had assembled that early morning, resembled, a bubbly transport terminal.


Tour buses, private vehicles as well as camels, and their drivers, arriving from far and the surroundings, flooded, intermingled and totally clogged the entire parking lot, at this popular meeting point.



The Group of only 20 of us was lead, again by our favorite and most knowledgeable Guide: Seffi Ben-Joseph info@seffibenjoseph.co.il 054-678-8408



Kalya's Splender


Kalya is part of Megilot Dead Sea's regional zone, the smallest, near the sea's North western shores.

It is one of the regions' 6 Israeli communities. totaling of about 1,400 residents, combined.



The name "Megilot" means Scrolls.

It refers to the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran, - a site, mentioned later, which we also visited on this tour, and which is within the council's governing area,near Kibbutz Kalya,


The name Kalya is derived from kalium, the Latin name for potassium, a chemical found in abundance in Kalya.'s. surroundings.

The name is also a Hebrew acronym for "קם לתחייה ים המוות" (Kam Litkhiya Yam HaMavet), literally, the "Dead Sea has returned to life"


And indeed, the Salt Sea actually, did rejuvenated...thanks to...




From Siberia to the Dead Sea :The Story of Moshe Novomeysky (1873- 1961)


A pioneer engineer and businessman Novomeysky immigrated from Russia and was an early visionary developer of the "Palestine Potash Company", precursor of the Israeli "Dead Sea Works".

He was also a founder of "Fertilizers and Chemicals", large chemical enterprise in Haifa.


Following his father, Moshe developed an interest in mining, and graduated from a Technical School, then studied and graduated in 1897 mining engineering in Royal Prussian Königsberg University,

Initially, he looked upon Lake Baikal as a source of minerals, and researched ways to extract them from bodies of water. In the 1900, he was among the pioneers of mining in Siberia. and built a chemical factory that supplied local glass-works with refined salts.


It takes a Rebel to move a mountain of Salt...


Being brought up in a revolutionary activist family he discovered Zionism and attended the 1903 Zionist Congress in Base , After meeting with fellow scientist and Zionist Otto Warburg in 1906, and being introduced to a report about the Dead Sea, he discerned similarities between its chemical composition, and those of the Siberian lakes.


Thus In 1907, he applied to the Ottoman Turkish authorities for permission to extract salts from the Dead Sea, visited the Dead Sea for the first time in 1911. and in 1920, immigrated to Mandate Palestine.

He settled his family in Gedera, purchased some land on the Dead Sea's northern shore, near Jericho. in the area of Kalya, and in 1922 he also purchased rights to mine salt at Mount Sodom .

He continued his pursuits by founding a company the Palestine Mining Syndicate, and conducted more geological surveys of the Dead Sea with British collaborations.

British Mandatory authorities subsequently issued him a tender for mining the Dead Sea

in an established consortium "Palestine Potash Company",with the Scotsman

Thomas Gregorie Tulloch.


The Palestine Potash Company founded in 1929, it extracted potash from the Dead Sea, and became the most important enterprise of its kind in the Middle East.

The product of the Sodom plant was transported by boats to the Northern plant, and from there it was sent by truck to Jerusalem and to the Haifa port for export..


In 1932 Jews started arriving for work and stayed over instead of returning to Jerusalem. thus a provisional neighborhood of huts, was founded in kalia.


During the 1948 War of Independence, the potash plant which was established in 1930- Kalia, at the North of the Dead Sea, was ransacked by Arabs from Jericho and destroyed by the Jordanian forces, The larger plant of the southern shore, established at Sodom (1934), was shut down but survived.


After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Potash Company, registered in Britain, was replaced in 1952 by an Israel company under government control.


Potach, Bromine, Magnesium, and Sulfar all Minerals which have been mined since..



Lido Resort -at Kalia - a window to a Glamorous Past



The sad ruins of the abandoned mythical Kalia Hotel , and of its famous half oval coulombs structure - Montazat al-Lido, restaurant, to which we walked by foot, crossing the road from Kalia's intersection, tells a story of a much glamorous legendary times, during when the now crumbling structures, were a desirable attraction, for the reach and famous.


The hotel was the first project of architect Zeev Rechter, who later designed Binyanei Ha’Uma and Heichal HaTarbut.



In the 1920s, Jewish businessmen living in Palestine opened the Montazat al-Lido Restaurant and Hotel as a resort venture. The Dead Sea area was historically an escape from city life, and in the early 20th it became easily reachable from Jerusalem, Amman and nearby Jericho.




Montazat al Lido Restaurant served the Jordanian elite between the Israeli War of Independence and the Six Day War. Guests arrived by boat, climbing the various sets of stairs, built and rebuilt as the Dead Sea receded.

The restaurant is now abandoned and destroyed, as is the hotel


An IDF reservist, Gershon Kochavi, found the free time in March 1973 during his reserve service to copy the entire Peutinger Table Map on the walls of the restaurant dining room. The Peutinger Table is an illustrated road map showing the road network in the Roman Empire.




From 1924 to 1939 Imperial Airways provided a commercial long-range service including routes to Africa, India and the Far East by flying boat, When flights on the England-India route began stopping at the Dead Sea, the Lido resort gained in popularity for its novelty and cosmopolitanism: the hotel and night club catered to a mixed clientele of Jews, Arabs, British Mandate officials and foreign nationals. Imperial


The Dead Sea water once reached all the way up to where the resort's rack stands at

-375 m under sea level, while now it rescinded to -435 m

There is a near by Roman Fort remnant under water, which was exposed in 1967.

Ruins of the abandoned Lido hotel collapsed recently due to sinkholes at the northern shores of the Dead Sea,. Several trials to renovated the place failed.


Also an army base was constructed in the area by the Jordanians, which later its deserted barracks structures were used for agricultural training of the Arabah Jewish settlers.



Eshel -Tamarisk tree grove. resilient to and can strive in high levels of salty water, still surrounds the site..

Now a days Date Palms commercial cultivated orchards can be seen from Ein Geddi up to Pazael .


Nahal Og or Wadi Og or Wadi al-Muqallek, winterbourne stream, that drains the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives range, east of Jerusalem, runs for 30 km and spills into this northern point of the Dead Sea., and is a popular hiking destination in the area.



PEF Rock - Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF)



Driving south from Kalia on Hwy 90 just shortly after Einot Tzukim nature reserve)or Ein Pashcha, way before Kurman, a huge protruding rock on the mountainous side of the road , carries PEF letters.

In 1913 a British expedition was sent to the Dead Sea to monitor and study the fluctuations of its shoreline. A line 2 feet above lake’s surface. and beneath it mark the initials. engraved on the rock.

PEF established by in mid 19th c in Oxford U, for the official purpose to research and map the Holy Land, but it also collected initial intelligence in the region which was under Ottoman rule.

in 2020, the shoreline of the Dead Sea was 4 m or 130 feet beneath the PEF mark, and it keep dropping about 1.5 m or 3 feet each year., .



Qurman National Park


Though I heard and read a lot about the Qumran site, it was the first time I actually visited here.., Climbing up the trail along the remain of an ancient water aqueduct,

to the upper level where a narrow tunnel was formed inside the Judean desert rock

to capture the flood water and channel it in a controled way., was exhilarating, as was the

amazing views of the dramatic surroundings, historical remains and bluish sea below..



Qumran national park is located about 20 km from Kalia, on a Judean Desert vertical cliff rising up from the shores of the Dead Sea, It is where the legendary Dead-Sea scrolls were discovered. in 1947 at the Qumran caves, along with impressive archeological findings, dating back to the ideological religious Jewish zealous splinter sects. who inhabited In the 2nd BC several locations of the northern Judean desert, prior to the Roman conquer..


The screening of a film, the small museum, and the the site's path, following the archeological finding, all tells the history of Qumran, and illustrates an ascetic

walled communal way of life


During Hasmonean dynasty era before the II temple destruction, many sects

splinter groups of Jews were formed, who were active in Judea starting from the 2nd BC during the Second Temple period, and through its destruction in 70.AD

*The Sadducees were aligned with the sacrificial temple nobility and Cohanim..

They and their function vanished from history after the destruction of II Temple. *The Pharisees a social movement,led by their ideologist leader .Simonl Ben Shetach (family related the Hasnpmonite queen).Nasi of the Sanhedrin, opposed the Templ's sacrificial practices, and endorsed praying, anywhere, in practice till our times. *Kana'im - the religious national Zealot fanatics ones, activists on behalf of God who rejected the ruling of any political foreign entity in the holy land, and who.incite the people of Iudaea to rebel against the Roman Empire and to expel it by force of arms.

Among them the infamous Sicari Zealots who carried sicae, or small daggers, concealed in their cloaks. using them at public gatherings, to attack Romans and Roman sympathizers alike, and Hasidim, mispronunciation as- Haisiim Essenes living in the Judean dessert around Dead Sea, are also included.

.

Those known as the Haisiiem = Essenes, were owner of relinquished assets, held financial knowledge and usage of the sward, fighters, with very strict abstinence

style of living., who worked in agriculture and writing of religious text., residing in the Judean desert communities.


Rooms of the scriptorium, pottery inkwells and a metal inkwell, as well as pottery lamps were found on site.. An alleged wars between the forces of light against the dark ones, was written by an army commander who lived among them.

These communities believed in a futuristic world, in which extreme human engineering practices, will bring it about.



Large number of Mikveh ritual purification pools to which water was diverted and supplied off collected floodwater from Nachal Qumran, and stored in water pools or lead by aqueduct to meeting rooms, to a central dining room (refectory) and to where ceremonial meals were held, and to the remains of the kitchen, can all be seen on site , as well as the watchtower, pottery workshops, and stable..


A cemetery was also uncovered. east of the compound, of some 1,100 graves, mainly of men and few of children. Burial was in trenches. The bodies were laid on their backs, arms by their sides, lying north to south. Bones found in pink coloring are related to vegetarian consumption of a Malauch Shrub common to the Dead Sea area.


The Scrolls

The scrolls which were found in 1947 are dated from the last 3 centuries BC and the first AD, about 1200 years earlier then an oldest known by than,the Damask bible text,

Apparently, fragments of Biblical texts were found earlier then 1947, as mentioned in few sources.


A shepherd boy from Tamrek Beduin tribe, was searching for a goat which fell into a cave and upon entering it he found 5 jars containing skin parchments, one of copper made, which is housed in in Amman Jordan museum...


The books of Ruth and Ester are missing in the scrolls text found.

Hallachic literature, Pesher Nachum, Habakkuk, Serach - the specific laws of this particular commune obsessed with ritualistic purification, were also found


Allegedly the community left hidden clues about were the II Temple's tools were placed yet, there were not deciphered till today, nor any tools were rediscovered..


And more on the scrolls


Boating on Dead Sea operated by Mitzpe Shalem Community.

Near by Mitzpe Shalem off Hwy 90 an unpaved dirt road curves toward a Dead sea shore's land protrusion, where a Mitzpe's member opened a metal gate, to let us in, and then for ecological reasons, gave a lift to 6 of us, at a time, in 3 rounds,,to the water's edge, in her 4x4 jeep.,

Ripe Watermelon marinated under the sun heat in green fields to our left, and the dry estuary drop of Hazazon stream spieling into the Dead Sea, was revealed on the right.


Mitzpe Shalem, which was founded as a Nahal settlement in 1970, after the six days war and was inhabited in the jewdefication program - Ihud HaKvutzot VeHaKibbutzim, .on land belonging to the Palestinian Bedouin village of ‘Ayn Trayba, is situated 1 km from the western shores of the Dead Sea, and is the southernmost community under the jurisdiction of Megilot Regional Council.


The small community of only about 200, has seen membership fluctuations and has undergone privatization.

It is considered a cooperative community now, and depends on agriculture, tourism and industry, for its livelihood.


Orchard of palm trees with an area of about 400 dunams, Watermelon fields set right by the sea shore, and a coop for raising turkeys, as well as laboratories which manufacture Ahava Skin Care products (2016 Ahava was sold to a Chinese conglomerate) still offers work places to the community's members.


Furthermore tourism used to include the Mineral Beach on the Dead Sea, with its sulfur-enhanced baths, and an organized swimming beach,


However, like many deserted vacation sites, along the sea shores, it is now closed due to the sea's regression and damage caused by sinkholes, which we had arrived to spectate from the boats.

2 small motor boats of 10 passengers each, were floating behind 2 happy go lucky boating guides, who waited to operate the boat ride on the Dead Sea and exposed us to the enchanting Salty Landscapes. They also run a Kayack tour


Boat trips +972054333050 (Orit)

Kayak tours +9720508650705 (ofer)



Jeckie - our robust tour guide boat driver, peppered his explanations on unique Salt Crystals, Salt Chimneys, Salt Stalagmites, Water-filled Sinkholes and Salt Diamonds, also with telling jokes on Jewish polish ladies - Polaniot, and on Bibi's captive groupies.


The guide shared basic facts on this sadly shrinking endorheic salt lake, located inside the Jordan Rift Valley, and created 8 millions years ago, as part of the larger ancient

Tethys ocean. In addition to massive evaporation, the water agreements following the Oslo Accords of 1993, also have reduced by 2/3 the water supply, which has been diverted since, from the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers to Jordan State, instead of flowing to the Dead Sea. The sea lost within 50 years, 60 m of the Sea-water height.


Earth's lowest elevation on land

The lake's surface and shores are 437 m, (1,412 ft) below sea level,

.It is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world.

With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2% (in 2011), it is one of the world's saltiest bodies of water[9] – 9.6 times as salty as the ocean – and has a density of 1.24 kg/litre, which makes swimming into floating.



In addition to observing the mentioned above, geo-morphological phenomenal formations, right by the water's edge, the sprout of underground sweet spring water from Judea desert aquifer, can be seen bubbling, below the sea surface,.


We were, also, let to walk on the piled up salted ground, and to excavate perfectly formed Salt Cubes, spread inside the sea bed gray mud.



On Sinkholes and and Salt "Sleeve/Chimneys"


Added by David - The geological - salt formations in the Dead Sea are breathtaking .

They are the result of 2 opposing “ forces” .

The Dead Sea is a supersaturated solution with 37% salt, or 1.5M , which creates magnificent salt precipitates formations due to small perturbations in salt concentration related to evaporation .

The other force is local dissolution of these salt precipitates due to hundreds of flood ground and underground water streams ,off Jerusalem/Judea desert mountains rushing into the lower surface of the Dead Sea

1.5 M salt concentration is 10 times higher than our blood which is 0.15M (PBS buffer). Sea water, from which all live started, has the same salt concentration as in our blood. .

There are many sweet water “ geysers “ on the bed of the Dead Sea, possibly related to a high frequency of tectonic movement in the Rift Valley. When a sweet water fountain erupts it dissolves the salt and creates a kind of hollow "sleeve" .

The one we saw was 18 M ( 5 story building ) high submerged. It keeps intact by a “active membrane “ layer of two sided algae . The algae has very high salt concentration which prevents salt water from entering the sleeve (turgor pressure ) from the outside . Due to the half impermeable side of the cell on the inside - the sweet side , only a small amount of flow of sweet water is pumped outside the sleeve .

The "sleeve" can grow above sea level but is usually broken off by the waves.


Across on the East side of the Dead Sea

Michvar - Machaerus Fort is situated on a fortified hilltop 30 miles south east of Jerusalem, on the eastern side of the Jordan valley, overlooking the northern part of the Dead Sea...(in Jordan the east side of the Dead sea)

It was built by the Hasmonean king Alexander Yannai /Jannaeus, as another desert fort, like Alexandrion and Hyrcania. Later it was used and developed by king Herod.

According to the Gospels Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist after being accused by him of violating the contemporary Jewish Law of marriage, since he married Herodias, his brother’s ex-wife, thus it is one of the most important sites in Christianity


Metzoke Dragot - Dragot Cliffs Hostel

From the low spot at the water edge, the panoramic view off the top's high elevation to where our guide brought us up, to have a drink at a Cafe, both can't be missed!


Metzoke Dragot (Dragot Cliffs) above Hwy 90, is a great panoramic site to see the magnificent view of the Dead Sea and Jordanian red mountains on one side, and the wide open desert and breathtaking edge of a mountain range, on the other.


This settlement was founded with the State of Israel establishment, and underwent many incarnations, from a kibbutz to school, eventually becoming a holiday village, an attraction place for youth to stay and spend nirvana time, or for incidental travelers like us, who stop for a coffee or ice-cream, while "inhaling" breathtaking the views....


At this inspirational top spot, we left the group and went our own way.

Dead Sea Hotels


Overnight by the Dead Sea

To spare the driving back on the same day, we spent the night at the Herods Hotel,

It is one, located on its own private beach, at the southern Dead Sea hotel tourism beach development strip,

The hotel's out door public areas, the pool and access to the Sea's water edge, are

great, very convenient, and definitely compensate for the mediocre hotel's lodging accommodation and dining. Most Dead Hotel Sea don't carry a great reputation.

Floating at the Sea, washing off at the pool, and not driving back home to TLV at night

was worth the one night stay.

Einot Tzukim- Ein Feshkha -Cliff Springs

Upon the guide's recommendation, on our way back, after passing by Qumran and before getting off Hwy 90 to continue on Hwy 1, we were compelled to stop at this unique lowest nature reserve in the world, which is also an archaeological site.




Located alongside the shores of the salty waters of the Dead Sea, it features a group of springs, of brackish water, 2 pools populated by tens of thousands of fish. a series of mineral water pools for wading and swimming, all within a tangled shaded rich foliage, and protected native flora and fauna, which can all be enjoyed, in the midst of the desert's saline wetlands oasis .



The fresh and saline springs emerge from cracks in the towering cliffs above the Dead Sea, and flow into pools surrounded with canes, and runs over a shingly bed in several streams reaching into the Dead Sea. The supply is copious and perennial, but has a slightly brackish taste and sulfurous smell. The color in the pools is a deep green blue


Within Ein Feshkha are the archaeological ruins of a Herodian complex – an impressive villa and industrial building. Happy Independence Day-Israel

THE END