Sinking to a new low

Saturday, Shabbat, Shabbos is taken seriously around here.  Orthodox Jews won’t turn on a light, write a note, plug in a heater, drive a car or even ride in one.  The stores are closed and there is nothing for the non-observant to do.

So we got out of Dodge.  Loaded up the tiny car and drove down to the Dead Sea.  Oddly enough, it was the most alive place around.

Wikipedia says the sea is 1416 ft below sea level, but that’s probably an understatement.  The level of the water is decreasing by 1 meter a year, because the only feeder is the River Jordan, and so much water is taken from the river for agriculture that there is little to none available to replace the evaporation from the sea.

There have been many proposals for how to save the Dead Sea, with the most probable being to dig a canal 125 miles through the Negev desert to the Red Sea and use that water to replenish the loss.

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What used to be a dock, now 80 or 100 feet above the level of the water.

We went to  a private beach, Kalia. Besides the beach, there was a restaurant, bar, spa and shops.  The clientele was a mix of Jews and Arabs, with both Israeli and Palestinian license plates in the parking lot.

The Arab women stay covered up, even when they go swimming.  Once you get out of the extraordinarily saline water, you need to shower off, and there was a shower next to where we were sitting.

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Showering off the brine while a friend takes photos.

You can see how far down we had to go to get to the water.

Swimming is everything you have heard of.  The water is so salty that tasting even a single drop is unpleasant.  You float so high in the water it’s hard to get your feet in, or you roll over and float on your stomach with you head in the air.  Nobody puts their head in the water, for good reason.  Your eyes would burn, your nose would hurt, it would taste awful.  About all you want to do is splash around a bit, try some floating and head for the showers.  Except for the mud.

There is a huge industry involved in beauty products from the Dead Sea, much of which is centered on mud.  Supposedly, the mud improves your skin and brings out some mythical “toxins”.  You can buy a half pound of mud nicely packaged for $12, but the people in the water just dig down and cover themselves in the black, sticky goo.  Toby had to give it a try.

 

He says his skin feels softer

People need pictures of themselves to show off with:

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At least one of the had the good sense to avoid the mud.

We lasted a couple of hours in the sun, then left for less salty adventures.  We had considered going for lunch to the town of Jericho, which is quite close to the Dead Sea, but then we ran into this sign:

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As American citizens, we could have continued on, but Toby is now an Israeli citizen as well, so we moved on to plan B–anywhere but Jericho.

We had lunch somewhere, I just forget the name.  I’d like to forget the fettuccine I had.  Toby ordered the gray mullet, which sounds like the haircut on an aging redneck.  He seemed to like his dish when it arrived:

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The it was time to goback to the hotel and take a nap.  There are parts of this tourism thing I could get very good at. Tanned, ready and rested, we went to dinner at the Happy Fish restaurant, right in the hotel.  It didn’t open until 9 pm because it was Shabbat, and the staff could not turn on the stoves and start their prep work until sundown.  That was fine with us, grownups eat dinner later.

The facility was beautiful, with dramatic lighting that made the meal an event.

Having dinner at the Happy Fish restaurant, Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem

We had an appetizer of hummus and falafel.  Food wise, the best thing about Israel may well be the hummus.  This was also the best falafel I’ve ever had.  Two for two is a good average.

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Garbanzo beans for the hummus, chickpeas for the falafel. Being a vegetarian just became attractive.

I had the grilled salmon as an entree.  I suppose I shouldn’t ask where the salmon came from; it sure as heck wasn’t local.  But it was delicious.

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That was the end of a long and pleasant day.  More tomorrow.

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