DEAD SEA--Until recently, this area was living up to its name.
The name still describes a dead body of water--with a mineral
content so high (a 30% concentration of potash, magnesium and
bromine as well as salt) that plants, fish and birds do not survive
without human assistance.
In the stark, empty desert that surrounds this end of the Jordan
River, air hardly moves. In summer, the heat is oppressive, pushing
Fahrenheit thermometers into three-digit readings. It hardly ever
And, the Dead Sea area has a checkered past.
The Bible locates the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah here,
and the nearby salt-flat bluffs seem to testify to the story of
Lot's wife, who was turned to salt when she chose to watch the evil
cities being destroyed.
Cleopatra came for its beauty benefits, and modern
archaeologists recently uncovered an ancient cosmetics factory in
The Dead Sea is located at the lowest spot on earth--1,300 feet
below sea level--which provides an atmosphere that filters the
sun's rays and permits nearly risk-free sunbathing.
Swimmers find that they cannot sink in the Dead Sea, but neither
can they move very well to do laps or frolic in the water; they
don't dare risk diving because hitting the water would be
Modern Israel is building on the area's millennia-old reputation
of healing ailing people to develop a most unusual resort area.
Tourists today can take advantage of the benefits of the area's
water and altitude, history and desert beauty, and then refresh
themselves in air-conditioned comfort at a range of hotels.
At the southern end of the saline, land-locked lake, these
include the new Hyatt Regency, Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza and the
Radisson Moriah, which has updated its facilities. Howard Johnson
announced its intention to build a property at the northern
Among nearby attractions are the oasis of Ein Gedi, with its
waterfalls and the ibex and wild goats cited in Scripture that
still live there.
The Ein Gedi Spa, operated by the nearby kibbutz of the same
name, has direct access to the Dead Sea and, under one roof, offers
several therapeutic sulfur pools, showers, lockers, a kosher
cafeteria and a gift shop. Accommodations are available at the
kibbutz, which overlooks the oasis.
Israel Ministry of Tourism Information Center, Phone: (888)