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Descent to the Land of the Dead!
January 22, 2000

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Taking a cruise on the Dead Sea
Caption
Green hills slowly give way to dry, rocky mountains. The bus I'm on, headed east out of Jerusalem, winds its way down, down, and farther down. We pass encampments of Bedouins who still live in tents and herd sheep. But mostly we just pass hills, dirt, and rocks.

On the side of a cliff, there's a sign that says "Sea Level." Rounding the next bend in the road, I see more mountains beyond and below me! I can't believe I'm looking down on the tops of hills from "up here" at sea level! After about another half an hour of going down, we pass the city of Jericho. This may or may not be the oldest city in the world, but at 250 meters below sea level, it is definitely the lowest.

Finally, at 386 meters below sea level, we hit "rock bottom." Or, should I say, a "dead end"? We are now at the that is not covered by water! We take a right and head south along the big lake. This lake is an odd, almost unnatural shade of light blue. Yet all around, the hilly, barren Judean Desert looms. A few small date palm orchards are the only sign of life. You'd expect a huge lake in the middle of the desert to be surrounded by settlements and agriculture, wouldn't you? But nothing grows along its rugged shoreline, among the white, crystal-looking rocks.

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A view near the edge of the Dead Sea.
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This lake is special, because nothing lives in it -- no fish, no plankton, no algae -- nothing but about 11 species of newly discovered bacteria. That's why it's called the Dead Sea! This water has been praised for its health benefits, for everything from skin problems to arthritis. But be careful! If you were to drink even a few mouthfuls of this sticky brine, you would die of instant stomach ulcers! YUCK!

But I didn't come here to be cured -- I came here to float! Growing up, I could never float on my back in the pool like other kids. I always sunk to the bottom> But not here! This place is a like a huge chemistry experiment, where we can prove that humans can float in the much saltier Dead Sea water.

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Abeja and her mom getting dirty
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As I'm playing around with my friends and trying to rinse the mud off in the soft, sticky water, I accidentally splash some water onto my lips. YUCK! That is the most disgusting experience! I'm glad I didn't get it in my eyes! Every tiny scratch on my body is stinging as though someone squeezed lemons on it.

Abeja

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...abejahummel@bigfoot.com
 

Monica - Caught in the Middle: The Situation for the Druze

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