Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oil Consortium to Drill at Dead Sea

Arutz-7 reports:

An oil drilling consortium which includes companies that found billions of dollars in natural gas off the Haifa coast will begin in October to look for black gold in an area along the Dead Sea, according to Delek Group chief executive officer Yitzchak Tshuva.

He said that the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has consented to the drilling after the consortium agreed to invest half a million dollars to protect the rich nature reserves in the area from damage during the exploration.

Investors' hopes of finding oil in Israel are based on seismic surveys that estimate that Dead Sea oil reserves are worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Delek heads the consortium that earlier this year discovered rich gas reserves approximately 50 miles west of Haifa, and estimates of the value of the gas have more than doubled since the first reports. Tshuva said last month that he foresees Israel becoming self-sufficient in energy in the near future, with the Jewish State possibly becoming an exporter of gas.

The complete article is here.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The Copper Scroll, Code Cracked?

The Copper Scroll is certainly one of the most intriguing of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The only text inscribed on two copper sheets, it lists the location of sixty treasures apparently in Judah in the period before the First Jewish Revolt in A.D. 70.  Many scholars believe that the list is authentic, but despite numerous efforts of the years no one has ever found any of the treasure.

The Jerusalem Post reports on an Oklahoma fire marshal named Jim Barfield who believes that he knows the location of not just one or two hiding places, but 56 of them.

After looking at the scroll for five minutes he deciphered the first location, and twenty minutes later he identified the next four locations. He and his wife took their first trip to Israel to confirm whether the sites and places that he had identified actually existed. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't just imagining things," Barfield said. It took six months for Barfield to crack the code for the rest of the locations.

This guy is pretty good.  He was able to figure out the locations without ever being to Israel, without knowing the language that the inscription is written in, and without having any background in archaeology or geography.

It’s nice to know what others think about his discovery:

He says that all of the archaeologists, rabbis, and historians presented with his research have been convinced. "It is so simple." He says. "They just all thump their heads."

Unfortunately, we only get it in Barfield’s words.

I don’t know enough to say that this guy is a fraud, only that he sounds like one.  If he actually has found something, he should go dig it out and then report on it.  But if he’s a publicity hound, I can write the script for the next few years: initial attempts will be stymied by various obstacles, during which time he’ll do many interviews and attempt to raise lots of money.  When he finally digs at one of his spots, he’ll find nothing – no treasure and no indication that any treasure was ever hidden there.  He’ll claim that it was stolen in antiquity (another round of interviews and appeals for cash) and start planning for a second excavation.  Efforts to dig will be hindered by various obstacles, during which time he’ll do many interviews and attempt to raise lots of money.  Etc.

The article itself is worth reading as it provides interesting and accurate information about the Copper Scroll.  You can find an introduction to and translation of the scroll in Florentino Garcia Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 2nd ed., pages 459-63.  An excellent reference is the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 volumes).

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Video: Search for Sodom and Gomorrah

Ferrell Jenkins links to a new video on the excavations of Tall el-Hammam, believed by Steven Collins to be biblical Sodom.  The 10-minute video is well-produced and the excavator’s arguments are easy to understand.  I don’t need to make every mention of this excavation on this blog an occasion to disagree, but it is difficult to let certain statements slide by. Besides that, conservative Bible believers like myself are used to hearing critical dismissals from those who don’t trust the Bible.  But just because something is opposed by critics does not mean that it is automatically right!

The problem, I believe, is that Collins’ statement “right place, right time” dooms his identification.  Finding ancient sites that have Middle Bronze occupation and then a gap until Iron Age is not difficult.  That’s what Collins has found.  This and the others in the area are no doubt important sites, but it does not fit the biblical data about Sodom.  Collins concludes with the presentation with this statement:

Every turn of the spade at Tall el-Hammam reinforces the occupational profile predicted for Sodom from the Bible.

If this statement was negative, it would be accurate.  That is, Tall el-Hammam does not match the occupational profile for Sodom given in the Bible. 

Sodom, according to the Bible:

  • Intermediate Bronze (aka EB IV/MB I; 2300-2000 BC): occupied and destroyed
  • Middle Bronze (2000-1500 BC): not occupied
  • Late Bronze (1500-1200 BC): not occupied
  • Iron Age (1200-600 BC): not occupied

Tall el-Hammam, according to the excavations:

  • Intermediate Bronze (aka EB IV/MB I; 2300-2000 BC): occupied
  • Middle Bronze (2000-1500 BC): occupied [Sodom was not]
  • Late Bronze (1500-1200 BC): not occupied
  • Iron Age (1200-600 BC): occupied [Sodom was not]

With regard to the Middle Bronze occupation, understand this: you must revise the biblical dates in order for Collins’ identification to match the archaeology.  He lowers the date of Abraham in order to create a match with his excavation results.  The traditional biblical dating of the destruction of Sodom is approximately 2100 BC, but the Middle Bronze Age ends about 500 years later.   (The key references that establish the biblical dating are Exodus 12:40 and 1 Kings 6:1.)

With regard to the Iron Age occupation, there is not one reference in the Bible to Sodom being occupied during this time.  There are many references from the end of the Iron Age that indicate that its destruction testified to God’s judgment (Isa 1:9; 13:19-20; Jer 50:40; Amos 4:11; Zeph 2:9).  This would hardly be the case for a city that was rebuilt and thriving as Tall el-Hammam was.

Understand, I want to believe.  The data just gets in the way.

My previous posts on this site may be found here and here.  Steven Collins has written a number of articles about Tall el-Hammam which may be found in his school’s journal here.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Qumran Virtual Model

A fantastic resource is newly available for those studying or teaching about the Dead Sea Scrolls.  You may remember the virtual model of the Temple Mount that UCLA created some years ago.  You can tour this by special arrangement at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem or at the UCLA Visualization Portal.  Their latest project is a virtual model of Qumran, home to the Essenes whose library is now famous.

A realtime virtual tour is not yet available online, but UCLA has produced about 50 still shots (ideal for PowerPoint), and eight videos, either in HD or on YouTube.

It is resources like these which pose serious threats to any students’ attempts to catch up on sleep during class.

HT: Ferrell Jenkins

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

“Qumran and Biblical Interpretation” Conference Schedule

I mentioned this conference before, but now I have received a detailed schedule.  The conference is hosted by Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and the cost is a very reasonable $50 for professionals (non-students), $25 for spouses of registered guests, and $25 for students, and that includes snacks and a banquet meal.  A DVD of the conference is available for $39.95 (with free shipping).  For more information, see the MABTS website.  The line-up represents many of the most important scholars on the Dead Sea Scrolls today.

Thursday April 23, 2009

2:00-2:10 p.m. - Prayer, Welcome, and Instructions

2:10-2:15 p.m. – A Review of the Speakers

2:15-2:45 p.m. Steven L. Cox, Ph.D. Professor of Greek and New Testament, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Cordova, TN. 

“Qumran and its Inhabitants: 170 B.C. - A.D. 70”

2:50-3:30 p.m. Peter Flint, Canada Research Chair of the Dead Sea Scrolls; Director, Dead Sea Scrolls Institute; Professor of Religious Studies, Trinity Western University

“The Three Favorite Books at Qumran. The Accuracy of our Biblical Text and Readings from the Scrolls Adopted by Various English Bible Translations”

3:30-4:00 p.m. Refreshment Break

4:00-4:40 p.m. James VanderKam, Ph.D. John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN

“Eschatology in the Dead Sea Scrolls”

4:40-5:20 p.m. R. Kirk Kilpatrick, Ph.D. Dean of the Masters and Associates Programs, Professor, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Cordova, TN

“The Messiah and the Dead Sea Scrolls”

5:30-6:45 p.m. Banquet Dinner The Betty Howard Room

7:00-7:45 p.m. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Ph.D. Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University, New York

“Purity as Separation: Comparing Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament”

7:50-8:30 p.m. Emanuel Tov, Ph.D. Department of Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

“The Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls”

8:35-8:55 p.m. A Panel Discussion with Speakers on Select Topics


Friday, April 24, 2009

8:30-9:10 a.m. Michael R. Spradlin, Ph.D. President, Chairman of the Faculty; Chairman and Professor, Department of Evangelism; Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Practical Theology, and Church History, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Cordova, TN

“The Isaiah Scroll of Qumran: Current Analysis, Opinion, and Implications”

9:15-9:55 a.m. Steven M. Ortiz, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds, Director of the Charles C. Tandy Archaeology Museum, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

“Myth, Media Hype, and Multivocality: Storytelling and Qumran Archaeology”

10:00-10:40 a.m. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Ph.D. Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University, New York

“Israel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jewish History”

10:40-11:15 a.m. Refreshment Break

11:15-11:55 a.m. James VanderKam, Ph.D. John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN

“High Priests in the Dead Sea Scrolls”

12:00-12:40 p.m. Emanuel Tov, Department of Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

“The Scribes of Qumran”

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Monday, March 16, 2009

A Favorite Hike: Nahal Darga

One of my favorite hikes in Israel is described in a recent story in the Jerusalem Post.  The Nahal Darga is a large canyon that drains the Judean Wilderness into the Dead Sea.  The marvelous hike combines spectacular views, historic caves, and challenging climbing.  Jacob Solomon’s article offers sage advice, but if you’re planning to heed the call, do not make the same mistake that he does and miss the real jewel of the hike, that is, climbing down the canyon itself!  Some excerpts from the article:

This is a memorable, varied and demanding full-day route. Shaded for much of the way, the earlier parts follow the deep, steep-sided gorge of Nahal Darga, and the sun should be well behind the Judean Hills by the late afternoon descent to the finish at Mitzpe Shalem. Check the flash-flood forecast immediately before this excursion....

You have reached one of the last stands of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132-135 CE), led by Simeon Bar Kosiba, a.k.a. Bar Kochba. The official Roman conversion of Jerusalem to the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina with a temple to the god Jupiter fired a rebellion of sufficient magnitude for Emperor Hadrian to bring down his premier general Severus, then in Britain. The fighters retreated, making their last guerrilla-style stands in these mountains in the hopeful but erroneous belief that the geographical obstacles you have just surmounted might deter Hadrian's imperial army.

If you do opt to climb through the canyon, you must be in good shape, you may need climbing rope, and you will get wet and probably dirty.  You also would be wise to leave anything behind that cannot get wet, including your camera. 

Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107575Nahal Darga from above

Wadi Murabaat, Bar Kochba cave, view from interior, tb021107619Wadi Murabaat = Nahal Darga, Cave where Bar Kochba scrolls foundNahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107581The best part of the hike is through the canyon itself 

 Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107612 
The best time of the year to hike Nahal Darga is February to April.  After that, the temperatures are too hot and the water becomes too putrid.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Norman Golb’s Son Arrested on Charges of Impersonation

Having been the victim of unwelcome, sometimes lengthy, and usually inflammatory comments on posts on this blog related to the Dead Sea Scrolls, I’m happy to see that New York police have arrested a man for allegedly creating many false identities, impersonating scholars, and slandering Dr. Lawrence Schiffman.  The guilty party, whether he is the accused or someone else, had a single agenda: to promote the widely panned theories of Dr. Norman Golb.  I have long been curious what sort of person would be so committed to such an endeavor as to spend countless hours to promote this view in places that have little real significance (this and other blogs, Wikipedia).  The answer, if NY prosecutors are correct, makes some sense: the perpetrator was Golb’s son.  That son, however, was not 14 years old, but 49.  One scholar who has wrangled extensively with the multiple-aliased offender is Bob Cargill.  A scholar at UCLA, Cargill has posted an extraordinary catalog of the campaign of this individual (be he the accused or someone else).  A few hours after Cargill posted his catalog, NY police announced the arrest.  From the NY Times:

For decades, the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been intensely debated.

The prevailing theory is that these ancient documents, which include texts from the Hebrew Bible, were written over the three centuries before 100 A.D. by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes, who were based in Qumran, a settlement at the northwest shore of the Dead Sea near the caves where the scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956.

An alternative theory, passionately proffered by a University of Chicago professor, is that the scrolls’ authors were not Essenes, and that the scrolls themselves were kept in various libraries in Jerusalem until they were hidden in the caves around Qumran for safekeeping during the Roman war of A.D. 67 to 73. Qumran, he has said, was not an Essene monastery but a fortress, one of several armed defensive bastions around Jerusalem.

The professor, Norman Golb, has stood behind his theory despite significant criticism. His son, Raphael Haim Golb, has been one of his greatest allies.

But prosecutors said on Thursday that Raphael Golb took defending his father’s theory too far. Mr. Golb is accused of using stolen identities of various people, including a New York University professor who disagreed with his father, to elevate his father’s theory and besmirch its critics, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said at a news conference.

Mr. Golb, 49, was arrested Thursday morning and charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Mr. Golb opened an e-mail account in the name of Lawrence H. Schiffman, the New York University professor who disagreed with Mr. Golb’s father. He sent messages in Professor Schiffman’s name to various people at N.Y.U. and to others involved in the Dead Sea Scrolls debate, fabricating an admission by Professor Schiffman that he had plagiarized some of Professor Golb’s work, Mr. Morgenthau said. Raphael Golb also set up blogs under various names that accused Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism, Mr. Morgenthau said.

NYUNews has posted one of the emails that Golb is alleged to have forged. (HT: Joe Lauer)

Unfortunately dad’s response is not altogether encouraging.

Reached at his office in Chicago on Thursday afternoon, Professor Golb said he was shocked at the allegations leveled against his son, who is a real estate lawyer and has a Ph.D in comparative literature from Harvard.

“My son is an honorable person,” Professor Golb said. “He could not have done such a thing.”

Professor Golb said that opposing scholars had tried to quash his views over the years through tactics like barring him from Dead Sea Scrolls exhibitions. He said he saw the criminal charges as another attack on his work.

“Don’t you see how there was kind of a setup?” he said. “This was to hit me harder.”

I’m not sure that this is the best time for Professor Golb to be complaining of the same thing that led the impersonator to carry out his campaign.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Interpretation Conference

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls with an impressive line-up of speakers.  More information is on the school’s website, but unfortunately no list of lecture titles is given.

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Interpretation Conference

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 2095 Appling Road, Cordova, TN 38088 (901)-751-8453

April 23-24, 2009

This conference will include world class archaeologists, authors, and researchers as well as Old and New Testament scholars. The speakers will include:

  • Kirk Kilpatrick, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Dean of the Masters and Associates Program, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Jodi Magness, renowned author and the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism, University of North Carolina
  • Stephen Ortiz, Associate Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds and Director of the Charles C. Tandy Archaeology Museum, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Lawrence H. Schiffman, renowned author and the Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University
  • Michael R. Spradlin, President, Chairman and Professor of Evangelism; Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Practical Theology, and Church History, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Emanuel Tov, renowned author, Department of the Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
  • James Clair Vanderkam, renowned author; and John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
  • Steven L. Cox, Professor of the New Testament and Greek, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

The registration cost is $25 for students, $30.00 for alumni, and $50 for others. Registration includes snacks and a banquet meal. Meal selections will be either beef, chicken or kosher. 

The conference and banquet will be held on the MABTS campus.

On April 23, the conference runs from 2:00 p.m. through 9:30 p.m. (the banquet will be from 5:45 through 6:45 p.m.) and on April 24, the conference runs from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For a registration form, click here.

To register and pay online, click here.

The Tyndale House blog notes that DVDs of the conference will be for sale for $39.95.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wildfire in Dead Sea nature reserve

From the Jerusalem Post:

An IDF training exercise sparked a massive wildfire at the Ein Fasha Nature Reserve Tuesday morning, destroying nearly 2000 dunams [500 acres] of land in what the chief firefighter on the scene called "the largest wildfire of the summer."

"It's by far the largest," said Amnon Amir of the Judea and Samaria Fire Department, as flames in the area were still being sprayed by airplanes overhead. "It started around four in the morning, and has been extremely difficult to put out."

According to Amir, the exceedingly dry conditions in the area, which borders the northern Dead Sea, added to the difficulty, and low amounts of rainfall over the winter were to blame. But he also told The Jerusalem Post that the IDF had initially prevented his firefighters from entering the area, making it more difficult to combat the intense flames....

"It will take 10 years before the area completely renews itself," Nissim said. "But within six months or so, we'll already see new signs of life. This isn't a completely tragedy, because it's somewhat healthy for the vegetation to renew itself like that, but still, it's been difficult to watch it all burn."

The army refused to comment further on the incident, which Army Radio reported had begun from a flash or smoke grenade. According to the Judea and Samaria fire department, there were no injuries reported, and damage was limited to the plant life in the reserve.

There have been three large wildfires throughout the country since Saturday, two in the Jerusalem Hills before Tuesday's at Ein Fasha. Firefighters blame high temperatures and dry conditions as a factor in all of the fires, but at least one, on Saturday afternoon near Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha, was reportedly the result of arson.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Scroll Distribution in Dead Sea Caves

A new study suggests that the scrolls in two of the Dead Sea Scroll caves were deposited fifty years earlier than the rest of the scrolls.  You can read a brief report of the study here; the full report was published here:

Stökl Ben Ezra, Daniel. "Old Caves and Young Caves: A Statistical Reevaluation of a Qumran Consensus." Dead Sea Discoveries 14/3 (2007) 313-333.

I am curious which two caves have the older material.  Based on geographical location of the caves, I'd expect 1 and 2, or 3 and 11.  But I don't have access to the article as I write.

For some photos of the Dead Sea Scroll caves, see here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Update (2/11): The link above has been corrected.  In the process, I found the full article itself, plus an abstract, which answers my question above: 1 and 4.  The link that Al gives in the comments below is to an earlier, abbreviated version.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Free Dead Sea Scrolls Mug

The Biblical Archaeology Society has a survey for current subscribers that takes not more than 5 minutes and after which you can supply a mailing address to receive a free Dead Sea Scrolls mug. This normally sells for $10.

Unfortunately, they don't have space for comments. If they did, I'd complain that they sell my address to others. Ironically, in the email requesting subscribers to do the survey, they say, "We will not sell your mailing or email address and nobody will contact you as a result of your responses." But they do sell your magazine subscription address without asking or telling you.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Rise and Fall of the Dead Sea

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 Bokek

According 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.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oil Found Near Dead Sea

The media is reporting the discovery of oil near the Dead Sea. Expected yield is very low, but it raises hopes that there might be more in the area. From All Headline News:
A nationally-held Israeli exploration company announced Wednesday that it had discovered oil near the Dead Sea.

Speaking on Israel's Channel 10 News, Dr. Eli Tenenbaum of Genco said that after drilling to a depth of 1.2 miles, "we noticed that the pressure in the area was very high and when we opened the tap, oil started flowing freely for several minutes."

Dr. Tenenbaum said the reserve could contain as much as six million barrels of oil, giving it an estimated commercial value of $300 million.

"We hope it was the first of many [such discoveries]," he added.

Genco started its work 10 years ago, but was forced to stop due to the high costs of its operations. But with oil prices soaring, the government recently gave the company the go ahead to resume exploratory drilling.

Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told The Jerusalem Post that the government is now ready to back any company that wants to try to find oil inside the borders of Israel.
Dead Sea from west, Sept. 27, 2006

UPDATE (10/11): The Jerusalem Post has more details, including a major new investor.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

More Talk on the Dead Sea Canal

You could be forgiven for thinking that a new problem has been discovered and a rapid response is underway from the Sunday Times article, "Race is on to save the Dead Sea." In fact, a Red Sea-Dead Sea aqueduct has been considered by Israel and Jordan for at least a decade. Whether or not the current discussions are more serious is difficult to know. The article notes that the flow of the Jordan River into the Dead Sea is 7% of what it was before the countries began diverting its flow. The declining level (cited at 1 meter/3 feet per year) is certainly causing problems with sinkholes and unstable terrain.

The article suggests that Jordan is most interested in the project because the bulk of it would be done on their side, with outside financing. Despite the hopes that a joint Arab-Israeli project would increase peace prospects, the way that this project stands the best chance of succeeding is if it is largely constructed by one country or the other.

Dead Sea: the shoreline just keeps getting farther and farther away.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Spring at the Dead Sea

There's always something new to see in Israel. This is one of those things that I've driven (or rode) past dozens of times over the years, but never was aware that it existed. Well, I knew in theory that there are warm, salty springs that contribute to the salinity of the Dead Sea, but I didn't realize that there are a couple that are not built over and are accessible today. This spring is hot, smelly, and shallow, but it's also good for your skin and it's free.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dead Sea Drop

It seems like every year or so, there's a new story on the decline in the water level of the Dead Sea. The level now stands at 1334 feet (417 m) below sea level down from 1255 feet (392 m) a century ago. At its current rate, it will be 1490 feet below sea level in the year 2050. This article in Globes has many more details.