Yes, it’s true – the Dead Sea’s falling threatens the environment and the roads, and the Dead Sea’s rising threatens the hotels. How one sea can be both rising and falling at the same time is best explained this way: there are two Dead Seas.

Until modern times, the Dead Sea was a 50-mile (78-km) long body of water, with a piece of land sticking out from the eastern side. Because it apparently looked like a tongue, it was called that in Hebrew (lashon) and Arabic (lisan).

With the damming of the Sea of Galilee and the use of water that formerly flowed down the Jordan River into the Dead Sea, the level of the Dead Sea dropped in the 20th century until the tongue reached all the way across the lake. The southern end is shallow and would have completed dried up if not for the channeling of water by the company that extracts minerals from the Dead Sea waters. So the southern end today is essentially an artificial evaporation basin, connected to the northern end only by manmade channels.

Today the northern end continues to drop because the limited inflow of water from the Jordan River. The southern end, however, is rising, because of the activities related to the mining of minerals. The rise of approximately 8 inches a year (20 cm) is now threatening the tourist resort of Ein Bokek and its many hotels.

Hotels of Ein BokekAccording to Haaretz, the Supreme Court of Israel has ordered the government to come up with a plan to solve this problem.

At present, there are three options: building a new lagoon with walls that will prevent flooding of the reservoirs, removing the extra salt from the bottom of the reservoirs or demolishing all hotels on the Dead Sea shore and rebuilding them in alternative locations.

In the meantime, expect the Dead Sea to continue to rise and fall simultaneously.


The stupid article by Ynet News has been mentioned a few places in the blogosphere already (best take: Higgaion), but I want to add my two cents and a photo. I’m assuming that you’ve read the original article and Higgaion’s response.

1. I don’t think archaeologists are to be faulted here. I’d be willing to bet that this entire article is a figment of the author’s imagination, possibly stimulated by some of the local paid workers at the site. The only archaeologist cited is Ronny Reich who rejects the article’s premise. I don’t know any other archaeologists who would claim something so foolish, especially at such an early stage.

2. An aqueduct has been found. In fact, a number of aqueducts have been uncovered in the last few months. The origin(s), destination(s), and date(s) of these water channels are not always clear. Collectively, there’s a lot going on near the Pool of Siloam that archaeologists do not yet understand.

3. There is good reason to believe that there is another ancient pool or two to be found in the area. Pools mentioned in Jerusalem include the Old Pool (Isa 22:11), the Upper Pool (Isa 36:2), the Lower Pool (Isa 22:9), the King’s Pool (Neh 2:14), the Pool of Siloam (Neh 3:15), and the artificial pool (Neh 3:16). It’s quite possible that a pool had multiple names, but it’s clear that these names do not all refer to the same pool. The convergence of the Kidron, Central, and Hinnom Valleys is a natural place to find pools because this is the lowest place topographically in the city.

Does it bother anybody that the article’s author doesn’t even know where the City of David is in reference to the Western Wall (it’s directly south, not west). I confess that when I first read the article, I decided to ignore it because it was clearly worthless. I changed my mind because some people have paid attention to it.

One thing worth remembering: current excavations are uncovering new finds from the Second and First Temple periods that will certainly increase our understanding of Jerusalem’s water systems in the biblical times.

Water channel recently discovered near Pool of Siloam
Photo taken Sept. 13, 2006

Adapted from Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem, 1865