Israel is a beautiful land, full of history and misunderstood by all.
Arriving a few days prior to the opening ceremonies for the 21st Maccabean Games yesterday I had the opportunity to wander this ancestral land. I especially wanted to be away from President Biden’s arrival in Jerusalem.
Boarding an early morning bus, I travelled to Masada and the Dead Sea, two places I have not visited since 1992. The trip may as well have been the first time. As the Dead Sea appeared beside the road, I instantly realized how much it had changed.
When we passed the first abandoned resort, it was evident how much water has disappeared in 30 years. The ground around the resort was full of sinkholes and the shoreline was far in the distance. Just like the lakes of the American west, the body of water is shrinking at a rapid pace.
With both Jordan and Israel benefiting from its wealth, the water has dropped 3 feet annually for the past two decades. The biggest change occurred when the peninsula of Al-Lisān extended eastward, separating the lake’s northern and southern basins, effectively making the northern basin the actual Dead Sea. The southern basin has been turned into numerous evaporation pools to expedite the extraction of salt and minerals, ending its existence as a natural body of water. Israel makes a great deal of money from magnesium and potassium.
During my swim this time in the Dead Sea, I skipped the mud, pushed my way through the dense, superheated water, and understood why no fish can live in its ecosystem. As they say, all this water and not a drop to drink.
But for others in our group, including Hannah and Einar Sigurdsson, and Emily Hametz, it was a magical experience of floating in its 30% salinity.
From atop Masada, the loss of the Dead Sea was most evident. Looking to the south, the water was barely visible off in the distance. This was not the Dead Sea of my memory.
And neither was Masada. The new generation of Israeli’s are questioning the story of the Roman conquest. Like any story that has joined mythology, archaeological studies have shed new information on a story that had only one source. Masada’s history was written in the 1st century by the Roman writer, Josephus.
His historical writings tell the tale of the Great Revolt and the siege and suicide of the defenders. Time has opened new views into the storyline.
But that’s for another time.
Today is the opening ceremony of Maccabiah 2022. It’s time to celebrate with the athletes.