We started our day at the Jordan River, which is one of the most spiritual places on Earth because it is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. The Jordan River flows through the Sea of Galilee and continues south where it feeds the Dead Sea. It has historically been a major source of water for Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, but major upstream diversions have significantly decreased the level of the river, leaving it more like a stream. The Jordan is currently fueled by rainwater, agricultural run-off, and sewage. At the observing area for the river, it is common for visitors to be baptized in the brown murky water while a sign overhead depicts the historic height of the river in 2013. The drastic decrease in the level of the river not only effects the immediate agricultural areas and the countries that depend on the river, but also the Dead Sea, which has seen drastic changes of its own.
Driving south, we continued to the Dead Sea, stopping at several locations along the way to witness the devastating effects of upstream water diversion. First, we stopped at a building that was once a waterside cafe. Now, the Dead Sea can only be seen far in the distance. Next, the group visited a deserted beach resort, which had to be closed five years ago for safety reasons related to sea-level recession. As the salt water receded, the fresh groundwater table followed suit, dissolving pockets of salt underneath the surface and leaving nothing but empty space. The result has been large and unpredictable sinkholes. This phenomenon plagues the northern shores of the Dead Sea in Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, swallowing land, buildings, and roads along the way.
To end the sobering tour, the group unwound by floating effortlessly in the highly saline and "healing" waters of the beautiful and damaged body of water.
By: Sarah Wicks