The Dead Sea - Looking Beyond its Beauty

By Miri - 

The Dead Sea is obviously one of the focal points of tourism in the Holy Land and also Green Olive Tours offers a number of tours which guide you through this area. On a trip organised by Green Olive Tours, however, you will be enabled to look beyond the natural beauty of this unique site whose shores constitute the lowest place on earth and whose waters are said to have therapeutic qualities.
View from the Israeli to the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea
Although a vast part of the western shore of the Dead Sea is actually located in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian population does hardly benefit from and/or has very limited access to it. In terms of its vast resources, as well as a richness in a variety of tourist attractions, including archaeological and historical sites alongside beautiful natural spots, the area could greatly aid the Palestinian economy. However, large areas alongside the Dead Sea have been declared closed military zones or nature reserves and the entire northern shore was allocated for settlements. B'Tselem reports that in the whole of the Jordan Valley, including the Northern Dead Sea, Israel has seized control over 77,5 per cent of the land and has prohibited the local Palestinian population to build on, or use the land.

Ahava production room, Photo Keren Manor/ActiveStills
While Israel is thus preventing the Palestinians to utilise the rich resources of the area, it allows private Israeli entrepreneurs to profit from the same. This of course breaches international law, which prohibits the exploitation of resources of occupied territory for the economic needs of the occupying country. In the area of the Dead Sea, the most notorious case is constituted by AHAVA, a company producing cosmetics based on the plentiful black mud which can be found at the shores of the Dead Sea. AHAVA was founded in 1988, its main factory and visitor centre are located in the Mizpe Shalem settlement, which also constitutes a popular site for tourists. Over the years AHAVA succeeded in building a chain of shops in 29 countries. Although extracting resources from Palestinian land, AHAVA like other companies in the West Bank, does not obtain permission from the Palestinian Authority, nor does it pay any royalties or taxes. Like many other products from the West Bank, AHAVA produce is labelled with  “Made in Israel”, confounding consumers as to the origin of the products.

Israeli bathing beach Bianqini, Photo Keren Manor/ActiveStills
While the majority of the shares of the company are held by Mizpe Shalem itself, another 7% of AHAVA is owned by Kibbutz Kalia, another settlement in the area. In addition to their AHAVA shares, Kibbutz Kalia also runs the Kalia Beach Resort, which was recently featured in the news for discriminating against Palestinian visitors and barring them from entering the resort.
There are at least four more bathing beaches located in the municipal areas of the settlements, as well as some 200 guest rooms run by settlements, which thereby directly profit from visitors.

Closely located to Kalia, you'll find Qumran, an archaeological site where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, now one of the main attractions in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, were found. The site is run by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, which collects entrance fees under army supervision. Similarly, Ein Fashkha, the lowest nature reserve in the world, featuring natural springs with changing temperatures as well as archaeological sites, is run by the same authority and makes a considerable profit from visitors.

When it comes the Dead Sea, the issue of responsible and informed tourism becomes a very apparent one. Visiting the area with Green Olive Tours, will open your eyes and consciousness to more than just the ancient history and the breathtaking beauties of the area.


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