Sep
3

RAISING THE DEAD

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Israel And Jordan Agree On A Red Sea To Dead Sea Pipeline

An old Jewish grandfather was taking care of his two young grandchildren. One of the children asked him how old he and grandma were. Gramps looked at his grandson and sighed.  “We’re so old that when we were your age, the Dead Sea was only sick.”

No trip to Israel is complete without going down to the Dead Sea – and there taking the obligatory photo of the bather sitting upright on the surface of the water all the while reading a newspaper, after having first covered oneself with the mineral-rich black mud found in abundance along the shore.  The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world (almost ten times the sodium content of the oceans).  It’s so saltine that no sea-life can survive in its waters, no plant-life can grow on its shore and nothing can sink (including people) below its surface, only float.  It is a  major tourist destination with millions coming (both local and foreign) and spending billions at hotels, restaurants, spas, etc.  It is a large supplier of crop fertilizer (potash and magnesium) and of course, sodium for homes and industry.  It is also medicinal – its  mire, waters and air considered therapeutic for skin ailments, with a number of insurance health plans including coverage for trips and treatments there.  Cleopatra came to visit it for personal beauty revitalization and Herod for personal health restoration.  And when the Romans occupied the Middle East they set up a rigid military control over the roads around the Dead Sea because it was such a fertile source of salt – a commodity so valuable then that it was considered a form of currency (and is where our word, salary, comes from).  Taking all of these together, no wonder the Dead Sea is considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

But the Dead Sea is dying.  It has shrunk by 1/3 in size over the past 20 years.  (As an example, some tourist hotels built along its shores with the salt waters lapping up against their bath houses, are now two kilometres or 1.2 miles from the sea).  And it continues to go down, not just in circumference, but also in depth.  The lowest spot on the earth (420 metres or 1,380 feet below sea level) is continually being re-calibrated down at a rate of from five to eight feet per year.  And being left behind are sink holes.  Twenty years ago there were none, now there are over 5,500 with some huge (100 metres across and 50 metres deep).

What is causing all of this?  One word, man.  Let me explain.  The Dead Sea’s single source of water is the biblical Jordan River.  For centuries, fresh water from this longitudinal river poured into the southern salty sea.  And by doing so, it balanced out the continued desert-heat surface-evaporation of the sea.  But Israel, through constructing a number of dams, now uses 90% of the Jordan River water supply for agriculture and drinking, which it must do so for its growing population.  So what you have is a Dead Sea that for every ten drops of water it’s losing through evaporation is only getting one drop of water as a replacement.  And if something isn’t done soon, the Dead Sea will just become one giant desert sink hole. But now Israel and Jordan have agreed to construct a 140 mile pipeline (at a cost of $10 billion dollars) which will, among other things, take water from the Red Sea and deposit it into the Dead Sea, eventually restoring the former to something of its previous size and grandeur.  (The shorter Mediterranean Sea route was considered, but had too many obstacles in its way to overcome.)  The project will begin later this year and is scheduled to be completed in three years, 2021.  Included will be the world’s two largest desalination plants (turning salt water into fresh water) along with a pumping station and two hydro-power plants (which will take advantage of the gravitational pull of the water as it makes its way down, down, down.