Monday, April 21, 2008

Journey to the Jordan 4: The Northern Shores of the Dead Sea

Our next stop was the northern shore of the Dead Sea (I seem to be coming here a lot lately.)

A British vacation house built on what was once the shore of the Dead Sea during the British Mandate (1917-1948.)

After Jews were free to return to the Arava region in 1967, after a 19 year absence, the Labor movement, which still controlled the entire state system, began the debate over what to do with the newly captured territory. Having reached the decision to settle, the first new settlements were built on the ruins of those which existed prior to 1948. Beit HaArava was one of the first, founded by the kibbutz movement. It was only one year before 1968, which was remembered worldwide as the year liberalism transformed into a more anti-establishment ideology. This is, not coincidentally, also the year Palestinian Nationalism was invented. The Israeli left gradually drifted into the same anti-establishment sentiments seen worldwide, which was particularly ironic since they were, themselves, the state. While the first labor-party Kibbutz, Beit HaArava, was founded by the Labor movement, and survives to this day, the secular-socialist settlement movement never really took off. The movement had already peaked and was in decline. Instead, it would be the religious settlers who would provide the bulk of the numbers for this new wave of building.

Meanwhile, the state made some deals with Arab investors across the river in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to try to develop the region. Such deals, of course, had to be kept secret, since Israel and Jordan were still at war, and Jordan still claimed this region as its own.

The hotels, built along the northern Dead Sea, never really took off, and today their ruins still litter the roadside.

An abandoned, 1970's-era hotel.

The hotel had an ampitheater, open to the dead sea, where concerts could be held.

The Ampitheater

The shores of the Dead Sea used to come right up to the steps. Today the sea has retreated probably about a kilometer away as it slowly dries up.

Steps into the phantom water.

One tenant (grasshopper) never checked out.

The hotel is in need of some minor structural repairs.

On the walls is a cool-looking mural of the Holy Land, based on a Midieval manuscript.

The Galilee

The Hula
The artist got creative and painted flames shooting out of Sdom (Sodom.)

It's not pretty, but the structure still stands. Given the building ban and housing crunch in the Jericho region, perhaps some day some enterprising youth will come to put the structures back to use as a yeshivah or a school. I know just the types to do it.

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