Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Dead Sea? 

The Dead Sea, despite it’s name, is actually a salt lake in the Jordan River Basin between Israel and Jordan. Its surface is over 1,300 feet below sea level (the lowest place on the surface of this planet) with a depth that extends as far as 2,300 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea’s water is some of the most saline on earth with 35% dissolved salts. The water gets saltier with increasing depth until it is so saturated at the bottom that salt crystals precipitate and settle. Many white crystals of mineral salts find their way to the shore. As can be inferred by its name, the Dead Sea supports no visible life, fish or otherwise. However, several bacteria and one type of algae have adapted to harsh life in the water.


The Jordan River Basin also includes Lebanon and Syria

What is the (human) history of the Dead Sea? 

The Dead Sea is located along the East Rift Valley, a zone of crustal plate divergence. Although it is clearly too salty to support human life, the Dead Sea has long been a site of religious significance. In fact, a temple high up in the hills overlooking the Sea dates back between 4500 to 3500 BC. However, over the past 50 years, increasing numbers of people and industries have been drawn to the Dead Sea for tourism and natural resources. For a more detailed look at the Dead Sea’s history, see our timeline.

Who owns/is responsible for the Dead Sea? 

The people who are responsible for the Dead Sea are the Israelis and the Palestinians. They are bound by a humanitarian law which allows for both parties to extract minerals from the sea. However, there have been many claims that the Israelis are not following the norms of this law and interfering with the Palestinians right to not only harvest minerals but to operate businesses within the area. This is an ongoing debate and highly controversial. This whole situation makes the lines not very clear on which party is specifically responsible for the Dead Sea.

What natural resources are gained from the Dead Sea? 

Ahava is the largest resource extractor from the Dead Sea. Ahava is a cosmetic company that uses the mineral rich mud from the Dead Sea to make certain cosmetic beauty products. Many of these minerals are considered extremely therapeutic in treating skin diseases like psoriasis. The minerals in the salt from the Dead Sea contain calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Success rates of psoriasis patients that have gone to treatment for psoriasis at the Dead Sea reach 60% for completely cured from all symptoms while 36% showed significant improvement.

What is potash?

It is a group of potassium bearing minerals and chemicals naturally occurring in pink salty minerals that can be found in ancient seas that dried up millions of years ago. The potassium within the raw material is used for fertilizers all over the world to grow crops. This material is popular because the potassium and other minerals within help the crops grow stronger and more resistant to pests and diseases (Encanto Potash Corp., 2014).

Potash before it is removed from The Dead Sea.

Potash before it is put into fertilizer.

What is a kibbutz?

A kibbutz is a community of people who live together on one plot of land who all treat each other equally and live their lives according to socialist principles. The workload on the land, which, includes farming, construction, and agriculture, is all divided equally and work together for the good of all people in the kibbutz. Less than 3% of the Israeli population lives in a kibbutz but it is considered to be a very important part of life in Israeli society.

Why is the Dead Sea religiously significant?

The Dead Sea is religiously significant because the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered less than one and a half miles from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in a cave in 1946. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide historical significance and religious and biblical data for the Hebrew Bible and they are considered sacred religious artifacts because they are the second oldest known manuscripts of works in the Hebrew Bible. They are so significant because before they were discovered the oldest Hebrew manuscripts dated to the 10th century, but with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is now the oldest Hebrew manuscript and dates back to the 2nd century B.C.

What makes the dead sea a tourist attraction?

The Dead Sea has many qualities that attract over 800,000 tourists a year from all over the world. Not only is it the lowest point on the planet, but it is the saltiest and most mineral rich body of water in the world. The contents of this water including the minerals and the mud are believed to have healing qualities providing the opportunity for rehabilitation and treatment. The most exciting quality some find is that when you swim in The Dead Sea, you do not even need to try and float. The water is so salty that it makes people buoyant without effort, a quality people find fascinating. Not only is The Dead Sea itself an attraction, but also surrounding environments. There are historical sites around the area including one with scrolls that are the earliest documentations of the bible. There is also the Baptism Site where Jesus Christ himself was baptized. There are many qualities that bring people of all kinds to The Dead Sea year after year. Below we have provided some fun videos and websites describing these attractions in more depth.

What are the main actors that are causing the degradation of the Dead Sea?

The shrinking of the Dead Sea is a result of several different actors taking resources out of the Dead Sea. Firstly, the increasing populations of Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are putting a strain on the Jordan River, diverting more and more water away from the Dead Sea for drinking water and other uses. On the shores of the Dead Sea itself, however, tourism and other industries take out water for the purpose of extracting mineral salts and potash for cosmetics, spa treatments, and fertilizer.

What are the ecological implications of the degradation of the Dead Sea? 

As the Dead Sea recedes, so do the freshwater aquifers around it, which diffuses salt deposits beneath the surface and cause the development of sinkholes. Unfortunately, since the freshwater springs and aquifers create a half-dozen oases around the lake, the degradation of the Dead Sea could also destroy habitat for many indigenous species that need those springs in order for them to live in the area.

Who is affected (by the health of the Dead Sea)? 

Many people depend on the Dead Sea. The sea is a source of income for many locals. This helps pay for food and income. Many local people have set up hotels, and resorts so tourist are able to visit the water. The Dead Sea also serves as a healing sight for many spiritual individuals. The high salt content is very good for healing wounds and creates very good cosmetics for health. However, this is only effective is the Dead Sea remains abundant and does not disappear within our lifetime.

How does the threatened state of The Dead Sea affect tourism?

The threatened decrease and eventual drought of The Dead Sea is worrying countries about possible effects on tourism. If the Sea does dry up, there will be no water to float in, no minerals to use for spa and medicinal treatments. Then there are the sinkholes swallowing people up. Yes, sinkholes, a huge threat to not only people but also the hotels they stay in and the roads they travel. Sinkholes can open up in an instant and have claimed many victims ecological systems, threatening the tourist life. Authorities have been forced to close down campgrounds as well as scrap plans for new hotels. Beaches near The Dead Sea have also been closed off due to the danger of walking through. Soon sinkholes may reach already existing hotels and cause damage (NBCNews, 2009).



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