The Dead Sea – also known as the Sea of Salt, the Valley of Sidim, the Ancient Sea and the Sea of the Arava – is a hypersaline lake which constitutes the eastern gateway into Israel.
The original sea sprawls across the area belonging to the Megilot Dead Sea and Tamar Regional Councils, approximately from the Lido Junction to Masada, with the Dead Sea Works evaporation ponds located southward from there. The Kingdom of Jordan lies along the sea’s Eastern bank.
The Dead Sea is key to Israel’s tourism, thanks to the therapeutic and extreme sports opportunities it offers. It constitutes the world’s largest spa. The sea’s salinity allows for a unique floating experience and the minerals found in the water and in the mud along the shore provide added health benefits to bathing.
The Dead Sea and its surroundings also have religious meaning; the historical heritage, pioneership and Zionism that it represents tell the tale of one of the most fascinating and tumultuous periods in the history of Eretz Israel.
The Dead Sea, the lowest place on the face of the Earth, is a national and global natural treasure. As of February 2009, it is situated 422.21 meters below sea level. This level decreases daily, with an annual cumulative reduction of up to 1.20 meters each year over the last 30 years.
Receding water levels are due mainly to the damming of the Jordan River at the Degania Dam, with the Dead Sea Works operations playing a minor role as well. The receding water level causes up to $90 million of damage each year, as well as the terrible harm caused to infrastructure, wildlife and vegetation, among them species that are unique to the area which are currently classified as endangered species.
The possibility of flowing desalinized water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea is currently being examined. This project is a joint venture of the World Bank, the government of Israel and the government of Jordan. It is one of the largest projects if its type in the world and will be very costly and fraught with environmental and economic risks. By the time it is implemented, if it is implemented, the water level is expected to decrease by an additional 30 meters.
Residents of the area, researchers and scientific and environmental bodies all demand that additional alternatives be examined: the natural alternative – rehabilitation of the southern Jordan River through construction of a water canal from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan, or the possibility of transporting water via sea or land.
Residents of the area are working to put the “Sea” back in “Dead Sea”, before it is too late. In order to raise public awareness of this issue, residents have recruited artists and leaders of public opinion for unique projects such as research, the “Salt of the Earth” conference hosted by Arava and Dead Sea R & D, a bicycle trek called “Tour of the Dead Sea”, songwriting and promotion of the Dead Sea parliamentary lobby. They even attempted to get the Dead Sea named as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”.
The Dead Sea stamp, initiated by the Israel Philatelic Service, is Israel’s salute to its own wonder of the world and constitutes an additional step in raising public awareness in Israel and around the world to the plight of the Dead Sea.