The Dead Sea story
The Dead Sea has an amazing history and diversity. It is 42 miles long and 11 miles wide at its widest point, and lies in the Great Rift Valley. The Jordan River is its main tributary. The whole area has great significance for Jews due to the historical records mentioning this as the location for many important events.
The Dead Sea in Hebrew literally translates as Sea of Salt, and certainly lives up to its name. Lying on the Israel/Jordan border, it is known as the lowest point not that is not under water or ice, at 1,371 feet (418 m).
The deepest hypersaline lake on earth, at 1,083 feet (330 m) deep, the Dead Sea is also the second saltiest body of water, coming at 30 percent salinity which is about 8.6 times more than ocean salinity). The only place on earth with a higher salinity is Lake Asal in Djibouti.
It is totally landlocked, and the Jordan River is the only major river flowing into it. There are other small streams and rivers flowing into the Sea as well, but there isn’t any outlets, which means evaporation is the only way water can leave.This is what causes to high mineral levels, as all the mineral content of the water is left behind. Differing from ocean water, the minerals of the Dead Sea are 53% magnesium chloride, 37% percent potassium chloride and 8% sodium chloride and a number of trace elements.
A very interesting reawakening occurs during rainy winters. The Sea’s salinity can drop by 5% or more and the Sea temporarily comes alive. In 1980, dark blue Dead Sea appeared red. According to researchers from Hebrew University, this was caused by a type of algae called Dunaliella, that fed carotenoid-containing (red-pigmented) halobacteria, which then caused the color change. The rainfall has not been sufficient since then to cause a repeat performance.
One of the most surprising happenings of the Dead Sea is its output of asphalt. The Dead Sea regularly puts out small amounts, and after an earthquake, pieces as big as a house can appear!
The Dead Sea can boast of being a refuge place for King David, hosting one of the first ever health resorts for Herod the Great, and supplying products for incredibly diverse uses as Egyptian mummification balms and potash for fertilizers.
Legend has it the Queen of Sheba was the first to know the healing powers of the Dead Sea. She came from Egypt to set up the world’s first spa there.
Among the most famous archaeological finds of the 20th century are the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls hail from a remarkable period in Jewish history, spanning the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE. This falls within the Second Temple Period, which saw a number of different Jewish sects develop. The Dead Sea Scrolls are an astonishing treasure-trove of theological and historical information: significant not only for understanding the history of Judaism and Christianity but also humanity in general’s quest for relating itself to the universe.