Athletes and eco-activists from around the world began a first-ever swim across the Dead Sea yesterday, crossing from the Jordanian side of the salty body of water to the banks of the Israeli side, a distance of approximately 16 kilometers. The goal of the swim was to raise awareness in Israel, Jordan and around the world about the need to save the Dead Sea, which is in a state that the swimmers said was an ‘environmental disaster’ that has seen the surface shrink by a third in the past 30 years. “We’re swimming in order to save the sea. We’re probably the last generation that can save it and if we won’t do it now, in 2050 it will all be gone,” said Oded Rahav, Israeli swimmer crossing the dead sea.
The 28 swimmers from various countries wore snorkels and face masks to stop the water – around 10 times saltier than the regular sea – from touching their eyes or entering their lungs during the seven-hour swim. A medical team accompanied the 28 swimmers, because ingestion of Dead Sea water can be fatal if not treated immediately. Swimmers occasionally stopped near the boats to drink fresh water, wash their masks and rest for a few minutes. “The salt makes a big difference. It’s nice to float but to keep the salt out of the body is a challenge.” / “This is the first time in history that this swim is ever been done so it is really a great initiative, and we understand why it’s never been done, it’s very salty,” said John Craven, South African Swimmer crossing the dead sea.
The sea which is mentioned in the Bible, sits at the lowest point on Earth. EcoPeace Middle East, one of the organizers of the swim and whose members include Israelis and Jordanians, said the event was aimed at highlighting the Dead Sea’s plight and to urge government action to save the natural wonder, a popular tourist attraction. If nothing is done, we’re going to continue to see the loss of heritage that is the heritage of all of us. And therefore we refuse to think about even the possibility of nothing being done. If these swimmers today can risk their lives, coming from all over the world in this call to save the Dead Sea, we can’t let the global community down,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East.
The Dead Sea, about 425 meters below sea level, which is equal to some 1,400 feet, is bordered by Israel and Jordan. Many visitors from all over the world come for the therapeutic properties associated with its mineral-rich waters and mud, and resort hotels have been built along the Israeli and Jordanian shores.