Going, going, gone

The Dead Sea is dying.

Already, in 2019 more than two thirds of the sea have disappeared, replaced by industrial pools. This human-caused ecological disaster is happening because of two primary reasons: the diversion of waters flowing into the sea by Jordan, Israel, and (what’s left of) Syria, and the increased industrialization in the sea by Israel and Jordan.

Human activity over the last 30 years has succeeded in destroying this natural treasure which began to be formed over two million years ago. It is just part of our continuing destruction of the planet.

Over the years, I’ve traveled the length of the western shore of the sea, from the Lido junction all the way to Neot HaKikar. I’ve seen the beauty from the mountains above, from the shore line, and now from the middle of the sea looking west and east.

I was luck to meet Jacky and Orit Ben Zaken, from the Mitzpe Shalem kibbutz. Jacky, an old sailor, is the only person licensed to sail on the Dead Sea. We set off, members of our 5046 photography club to observe the salt formations and learn about this impending catastrophe from Jacky.

Jacky brought us to areas of the shore which are inaccessible by land. The formations were breathtaking and almost psychedelic.

The layering of different color silt creates an almost surreal image.

This is really a breathtaking way to see the Dead Sea, and we are all anxious to go back with Jacky and visit other, less explored, parts of this amazing and surreal landscape.

Incidentally, I was thrilled to see an article about the disappearance of the Dead Sea, and about Jacky in the New York Times. If you want, you can read it, by clicking here.

Otherwise, you can make a reservation with Orit (Jacky’s wife) by calling her via their Facebook page – נופי מלח – Salty Landscapes.

Prayer, devotion, and community among the Samaritans

Not far from Nablus, in the west bank, we arrive at the small village of Kiryat Luza early in the morning during Succot (the Feast of the Tabernacles) and we join the early morning prayer of the Samaritans.

This small group are a small ethnoreligious group who date their ancestry to the Biblical tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Their roots are ancient, by some accounts beginning with the entry into Canaan, or by others beginning with the Babylonian exile. In any extent, this indigenous group broke off from mainstream Judaism during the time of the kingdom of Judah (between the ninth and the fourth century, BC).

Samaritans believe that theirs is the true religion of the Israelites, as mainstream Judiasm underwent changes during the Babylonian exile.

During morning prayers, sons, fathers, and grandfather commune and read an ancient text. The air of devotion is palatable in the synagogue.

The two Samaritan communities are very small, totaling about 800 people altogether. About 400 live in Kiryat Luza, and the rest live in the Israeli town of Holon. Despite being recognized as a religious entity, the religious monopoly in Israel (the Chief Rabbinate) requires that Samaritans undergo a conversion to Judaism in or to be considered as Jews. During the ceremony we witnessed we were amazed to see some visitors from the Ultra-Orthodox community as well as some discussions between the two groups.

Most Samaritans speak Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, or a mix and their prayers are in Samaritan Hebrew or Samaritan Aramaic, written in the Samaritan alphabet (which is related to ancient proto-Hebrew, and is undependable by Hebrew readers).

Following the indoor prayer session, all head out for the outdoor ceremony on the hillside of Mount Gerizim.