Dead Sea

A wet walk in a dry place

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While our group experienced the wonder of swimming in the Dead Sea, I headed in the opposite direction. The Wadi Boqeq Nature Reserve is hidden in a narrow canyon that drains the east side of the Wilderness of Judea. I waded upstream for maybe a kilometer at sunset. It was a wet hike with lots of small waterfalls, waterholes, boulders, birds, and lush vegetation.

Apart from a group of three that exited the canyon (near the ruins of a Roman/Byzantine fortress) as I entered, it was a solitary experience. The sound of splashing water and cooing doves kept me company. The shadows lengthened in the rose-colored canyon as the sun released its grip on the day.

Ironically, the modern name of the place in Hebrew is boqeq. The term refers to wasted or empty space (see Isaiah 24:1).

Flash flooding make desert wadis a dangerous place in the winter (as Job 6:15 suggests) but in the summertime they are cool havens for life in an otherwise inhospitable desert.


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The view from our hotel window at Ein Boqeq is hardly desolate. The contrast between the swim area in the Dead Sea and the hotel spa and pool could not be stronger.

If you are interested in experiencing the desert stretches of the biblical Heartland for yourself, consider joining us in the future. We have open seats for several trips in 2020 and 2021. We are booking new groups for 2022. Shoot me a note at markziese@gmail.com or see our full list of study-travel opportunities here.

Elijah's view before takeoff

The Jordan River snakes along the floor of the valley. It carries moisture to vegetation that can tolerate sweltering heat and salty soil. 

Dead and dying, sortof

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Word on the street has it that the surface of the Dead Sea (Arab Al-Bahr al-Mayyit; Heb Yam ha-Melah) is falling at a rate of three feet a year (See link here). Runoff from adjoining areas is being captured and redirected, depriving the deepest hypersaline lake in the world of traditional water sources (including the Jordan River). Mind you, no one is worried that it will dry out anytime soon; the lake is more than a thousand feet deep. Beyond this, it is hypothesized that the rate of shrinkage cannot remain constant (find out why in an excellent BBC report linked here). Still, there are known and unknown consequences. More than 5,500 sinkholes have opened up along the recently exposed shore in the last 40 years. These have swallowed cars, people, date palms, gas stations, and even resorts!

I captured this image the day before yesterday from a viewpoint along Highway 90 north of Ein Gedi. Note the shadowed contours suggestive of coastlines in the recent past.