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Israel tour guide > The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

Going to Israel and not visiting the Dead Sea is the tourist equivalent of not putting salt on your chips! As clichéd as it may be, a float in the mineral rich sea is an absolute must for any tourist or traveller. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the face of the earth about 1,300 feet (400m) below sea level. Rich in potash, magnesium and bromine the sea is known as "The Salt Sea" in Hebrew. As its English name clearly indicates very little is capable of surviving in the salty sea or on its arid banks. However, the abundant nutritional mud and the higher levels of oxygen in the air make the Dead Sea a charming health spa destination.

 

Apart from floating on the water there are many more reasons to take an interest in the Dead Sea.

Towards the northern end of the Dead Sea are the ruins of an ancient settlement at Qumran. In the nearby caves Bedouin tribesmen and archaeologists discovered a series of ancient writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amongst them was one of the most important biblical archaeological finds of the twentieth century, the oldest copy of the book of Isaiah in still legible Hebrew script. This and many of the other scrolls can be viewed at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

Further north is the city of Jericho

On the western bank perched defiantly atop a steep-sided plateau stands the ancient fortress of Masada. Fortified by King Herod before the time of Christ it became the last stand of the Zealots in 70AD. Jewish rebels had risen against the might of Rome four years earlier, but were ferociously crushed by the Romans, who laid waste to the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple as Jesus had predicted. The rebels retreated to Masada and despite a full Roman siege held out for three more years, when refusing surrender the 967 men, women and children committed mass suicide!

Further to the South, you can escape history and relax in the lush surroundings Ein Gedi, one of Israel's most attractive oases. As well as freshwater springs and waterfalls, this tropical microclimate offers a refuge for desert wildlife.

Climbing out of the southern point of the Dead Sea is Mount Sodom. This barren and rocky landscape is the traditional site of the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Old Testament. Genesis describes how God punished the sinful inhabitants with "fire and brimstone" for their "abominations unto the Lord", saving only Lot and his family. The region remains barren to this day.

 

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