SHARE
Advertisement

By Ronen Zevulun
METZOKE DRAGOT BEACH, Dead Sea (Reuters)

A naked man covered in mud lies on a beach, while nearby a dreadlocked recluse reads from the Book of Exodus and a woman strikes a low soothing note from a Tibetan singing bowl

It’s sunset at the Dead Sea, where the New Age melds with a biblical vista in danger of becoming a paradise lost.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Avraham carries dry branches to his makeshift camp on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

The Dead Sea’s salt-rich waters are vanishing and its shores are being devoured by sinkholes, making Metzoke Dragot beach one of the last unspoiled spots at the lowest point on the planet.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Zina, a tourist from Belarus, plays his guitar as he sits on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Over centuries the ancient lake has drawn monks, hermits, small Jewish sects and early Christians, travellers seeking spiritual elation and tourists who enjoy floating in the highly-buoyant water and covering themselves with its mineral-rich mud.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Sharon sleeps in a sleeping bag on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

But in the past few decades, ecological damage has been devastating. The Dead Sea is disappearing at a rate of more than a metre (three feet) a year, mainly because its natural water sources, which flow south through the Jordan River valley from Lebanon and Syria, have been diverted for farming and drinking water.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Tourists from Poland float in the Dead Sea during sunset, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Mineral mining by Israeli and Jordanian potash producers account for further damage. In the past few years, beaches have shut down as signs warning of the danger of sinkholes have sprung up along the shoreline.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Avraham (L) sits near his makeshift camp as Bar (R) and a friend pour water into a container, on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

A rocky trail leads down from the desert road to Metzoke Dragot. The beach is in the northern part of the Dead Sea that borders Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
A sink hole filled with water is seen on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

A handful of makeshift camps or “Zulas”, Hebrew slang for a hangout, dot the beach. They are mostly built with branches, tarp and old sheets that provide cover from the baking sun.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Baruch sits in his tent on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

High season here is during the winter when the heat is bearable for most. And there are also those who choose to stay – indefinitely. They seek refuge from modern day life and hope to avoid the rat race.

 

Jade holds a Tibetan The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea – a hermit havensinging bowl as she sits on a cliff overlooking the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

“Half the world is hi-tech. I’m with the other half,” said Mark, who did not give his surname and said he was about 60 years old. Often relying on the kindness of strangers for food, he has lived on the beach for the past 10 years, without electricity, or a mobile phone.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
A woman blows the Jewish Shofar, a ram’s horn, on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Many visitors to the Dead Sea come for the therapeutic properties associated with its minerals. Jade, a former fire-fighter from New York who did not want to give her full name, said she came for healing purposes and had planned to go back to her home in Jerusalem after a while.

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Avraham walks along the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

She’s now been here over a year. Her Zula is lined with crystals, herbs growing in plant pots, books and packets of food she brings once a week on the bus from Jerusalem.

“I’ve found the deepest most amazing healing and peace, the most amazing energy,” she said. “This is my life, I’m not leaving.”

 

(Writing and additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, William Maclean)

 

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
Gad stands in a sweetwater pool among reeds, on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
A person swims in the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

The Wider Image: Vanishing Dead Sea - a hermit haven
A man reads the bible as he sits in his makeshift camp on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Metzoke Dragot in the Israeli occupied West Bank, January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Keep reading (more images ahead) …

 

Advertisements