Where It All Began - Fall 2019 travel blog













low water level


therapeutic mud

Just as our guide Mustafa could not come into Israel with us, our guide Anahid could not enter Jordan with us. Israelis can only enter from the very north and the very south, whereas we drove through the narrow middle of Israel today. When we got to the border, we unloaded the bus, she paid our visa fee for Jordan and we exited Israel on foot. There we met our new driver, our new guide Nader, a hunk worthy of a starring role in a Hollywood film, and got on a new bus. It all was about as efficient as they could make it, but it still was a huge waste of time.

On the Israel side Anahid gave us a final round of information about her country: Israel is about the size of New Jersey. At its narrowest point it is only six miles from the coast to the border on the West Bank. It’s no wonder that the Israelis want to give themselves a bit more of a buffer zone with their illegal settlements. Since our president declared that the US feels that they are no longer illegal, a Day of Rage is planned today on the West Bank according to the Palestinian leadership. We’re hoping that this does not affect us.

Anahid talked about the Ultra Orthodox Jews, which cause a division of another sort in Israel. They seem to feel that the rules do not apply to them. Their young adults refuse to serve in the army as all other Israelis are required to do, because they do not want their young adults to mingle with the opposite sex outside of marriage. While all other students are required to learn another language besides Hebrew in school, they want their second language to be Yiddish, not very useful for anyone who wants to interact with others. Obviously, they don’t. They have Kosher phones, which only allow them to access approved websites. Adults who have jobs that required more internet activities must run an app that filters out immodest websites. Many of their adult men do not work at all in the traditional sense and want to spend the whole day in religious study. The other Israelis are supposed to support their religious work with their taxes. The Ultra Orthodox take the Biblical commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” to such an extreme, that the women have no time to do anything but be mothers and take care of children.

Nader brought us to a resort on the Dead Sea that looks right out of Arabian Nights. There are many resorts in this area, since floating in the Dead Sea and partaking in its medicinal mud has been popular for years. We had no sensation that we were 1,400 feet below sea level until we got into the water. It was a strange, disorienting feeling: hard to get properly balanced in the buoyant soup. We were careful not to flail about since a tiny drop of water in your eye could leave you weeping in pain. The Dead Sea is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. After bobbing around like a cork, watching some of our fellow travelers smear themselves with the thick, dark mud, we head to the freshwater pools at the resort, which come in a variety of temperatures.

Because both Israel and Jorden are taking too much water out of the tributaries to the Dead Sea and rainfall is less than ever, the surface of the water is going down fast. Resorts like ours keep having to build more stairs down and new beaches and terraces so their guests can access the water. It felt like we were hiking down into the Grand Canyon. The Dead Sea is formed by a rift that extend all the way to Kenya in Africa, formed by two tectonic plates that are moving apart. The land bordering the sea is much higher on the Jordan side than in Israel. The sea is about ten miles wide and 900’ deep. A truly unique spot.

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