Jerusalem and the Dead Sea

Last week we were in Israel. I was invited to give a talk at a NATO workshop on Web Intelligence. It was a great trip not only because there were some interesting people at the workshop but also because it was held at Ein Bokek on the Dead Sea. Swimming in the Dead Sea is quite an experience because your body becomes just like a air-filled flotation device. You are quite unstable so as you lie backwards you can easily flip  over onto your front. You really don’t want to get the water in your eyes as it stings like hell. The water is saturated salt and crystals of salt condense out at various places. The Dead Sea is also the lowest point on Earth at -500 meters below sea level. The river Jordan flows into the Dead Sea and there is basically nowhere else for the water to go as it can’t flow into the sea! It evaporates in the intense heat until it reaches salt saturation and then the evaporation slows to a small level. Thousands of years ago the sea was much higher and you can see this from the surrounding mountains. Probably the waters have been partly diverted by man for irrigation and partly the climate has become drier. There are even plans to open a channel from the Red Sea to ensure levels. Of course the sea would just run downhill!

Afterwards we spent two nights in Jerusalem at the Gloria Hotel inside Jaffa Gate. The hotel is run by Greeks associated with the Greek Orthodox church and I would really recommend the place as it has lots of character, is reasonably priced and in a perfect position. Jerusalem is a unique place steeped in religion and ritual. Ultra orthodox Jews, Armenian priests and Muslims seem to mingle yet clearly live separated lives. On Friday afternoon we walked to the Western Wall which is the last remaining stonework of the second temple. The Temple mount is a level flat surface built around the rock where Abraham is said to have offered his son for sacrifice 3500 years ago. The rock is now inside the Temple Mount Mosque originally built in the Umayed period 700 AD. Over 3000 years of history are clearly visible with Roman sites mentioned in the bible like Bethseda clustered around the small walled city.

We spent the last night in Tel Aviv, altogether a more modern dynamic young place. The beach goes on forever with rich deep sand. The walk to Jaffa is long and straight. We went for a swim in the warm sunshine with an air temperature of 25 degrees in late November.

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