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July 9, 2009July 9, 2009  1 comments  Geography

The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, situated at 417 meters below sea level, is one of the finalists in the new competition of the seven great wonders of the world.  In a show or cooperation and support, the Tourism Ministries of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority individually signed the official supporting papers for candidacy of the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea is also known as the Sea of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities which were destroyed in Gen 19:1-29. There is nothing in the lake that breathes life, no fish or animal or any moving waters.


In 2007, the level of the Dead Sea was minus 421, almost the lowest in the last 2,000 years and each year the lake claims to be shrinking by 3 feet. More than 90 percent of the water from the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers that once fed the Dead Sea is now diverted to meet agreicutlural, industrial and tourist demands. the sea has no exit and water is lost due to evaporation.


The New 7 Wonders of Nature competition was launched in 2007 with about 440 sites from 220 countries (more than those competing in the Olympics). The Megillot Dead Sea Regional Council proposed the candidacy of the Dead Sea for the competition in order to promote tourism to the region and raise public awareness around the world of the problems facing the sea, which has lost about one meter in height every year for the past 30 years, mainly from the effects of restricting the flow of the River Jordan at the Degania Dam.

Other contenders for the title of New 7 Wonder of Nature include the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, the Galapagos Islands, Niagara Falls, Kilimanjaro Mountains, the Black Forest, the Maldives Islands and many more in seven different categories.



July 18, 2009July 18, 2009  0 comments  hiking


Most travelers to Bethlehem and the nearby villages typically visit the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus Christ,  and the expanisve Mangar Square outside the Church. Other popular sites include Shepards Fields and Rachel's Tomb. Few though will take the time to experience the nature beyond the city, complete with its olive tree terraces, arid valleys, numerous burial caves, monastaries, fortresses, and the people. This is what the Abraham's Path is all about.


On my outing along the Abraham's Path, I was accompanied by the country coordinator for the Abraham's Path, Mr. Hijazi Eid, a tour guide and avid hiker, whose mission is expose people to this Holy Land landscape and see it through the eyes of our forefathers by walking through a comprehensive 70 kilometer trail system that has been developed inside the territories. The walking trail follows the footsteps of Abraham  and winds along the surrounding hills of Nablus, through the villages of Awarta and Aqraba and traverses the edge of the Jordan valley until Duma. The path moves through an important water spring, Ein Samia to Kefer Malek, Deir Jarir and to the Christian village of Taybeh before ending at the Auja village near Jericho.


Because of time constraints I only walked the portion of the path that is adjacent to Bethlehem, but along my short journey I was treated to expansive landscapes, ancient pools, aqueducts and other antiquities. We began the journey at the Solomon's Pools, consisting of three great reservoirs, each consstructed furing separate periods, where crucial to Jerusalem's water supply. Situated at a higher altitude, the springs in the area are the closest to Jerusalem and they therefore were critical to the great city. Within Jerusalem, there are remnants of the low level aquaduct outside the gates of Jaffa. The length of this channel is about 21 kkilometers while the vertical difference is some 30 meters. We hiked along the trail alongside the pools and you could still see the remnants of several aqueducts that had been constructed to bring the water down to the difficult terrain to the reservoirs. From the trail we could see the remnants of an old fortress (Murad Fortress or Qala'at el burak-Castle of the Pools) and  Khirbet el Khaukh- Peach Hill, the site of Etam and where Shimshon apparently hid. On the summit there is a magnificent view of the area. We passed numerous burial caves as well as the Kherba where Shimshon apparently hid. As we continued our walk we could see into the hidden valley, the village of Urtas. It is possibly the Hotrtus conclusus mentioned in the Cantlicle of the Canticles, known as the Song of Songs.  We ended the walk at a picturesque Italian monastary, known as the Monastary of Our Lady of the Garden, the Virgin Mary.


Approximately 100 people have hiked the path in 2009. For university students and others interested in hiking a six day organized tour of the Abraham's Path, registration is underway. The tour begins on uly 24 and includes visits to historical sites, accommodations at local families along the way, all meals, professional guiding. Email hijeid@yahoo.com for more information. Day tours including hiking parts of the path can be arranged through Travelujah.


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