The Dead Sea Is Dying: A photo-essay by Gytė Skirkaitė

Discovering sinkholes in abandoned beach resorts

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Earlier this year, I visited Israel and the Dead Sea. 

I didn’t plan my trip – I  just visit places that aren’t too crowded. That’s why I chose Ein Gedi camping for my stay instead of being in the area with big hotels, spas and thousands of tourists.

When I arrived I was pretty happy: there was a small local community (‘kibbutz’ in Hebrew) living there surrounded by deserted nature. But that was it. No cliched tourists floating in the sea reading the paper. 

I felt happy to be in such a beautiful place. The joy didn’t last long. That was when an Israeli family told it wasn’t possible to swim from Ein Gedi beach “because of the sinkholes”. 

After the first day of hiking, I went to Ein Bokek beach, but it was crowded – a resort full of hotels and tourists recreating images they saw in holiday company brochures. However, I came back happy, because at least I’d seen the Dead Sea. A guy at the camping site said I should still go to Ein Gedi (just three kilometres away), even though it had been closed for three years because of the sinkholes. 

Next morning I woke up early and left before the sunrise. Everywhere I walked, I saw signs saying: ‘Danger, sinkholes, open pits’, but they only pushed me to discover more and more. It’s difficult to get to the water there without special shoes because there are huge cubes or blocs of salt prickling your feet everywhere. But it was so beautiful and calming to see nature’s dominance around me.

Suddenly I found a fantastic view - a real ghost beach. When the guy from the campsite told me about the abandoned beach, I just imagined a deserted place with sinkholes. But this was before I saw the abandoned parking lot where plants were breaking through the cement. It was apocalyptic. 

There was an abandoned old bar, tables (I had my breakfast on one that’s gradually falling into a sinkhole), and playgrounds for kids, all wholly deserted and xx to nature. I had this phrase going through my mind: “Nature destroys what it doesn’t want to be – we are just spectators of its theatre.”

Even though the sun was starting to beat down, and the heat was making me tired, I kept on exploring. I was carrying my film camera, but as I had less than a roll left, I had to be selective about what I shot. 

I have heard about life forms appearing in those sinkholes, which makes rethink my title: is the Dead Sea dying or rebirthing? 

It was called the Dead Sea because no life was possible there, due to the high amount of salt in the water. But nature, as well as human beings, is always transforming. So it’s probably our fault that the Dead Sea is drying out, but every transformation brings something new. We just have to understand it. 

The destruction helps us to build up new things, ideas, understandings, and to move forward. We don’t know where it brings us, but change is probably the only permanent thing we have. So let’s enjoy what Mother Nature offers us today because she’s able to destroy, not only old car parks but also herself. Like we all do.

I found these verses in an abandoned rescue house on the beach. There was more poetry written on the walls, but this one captured not only my eyes but also my soul.

Alchemy
I transmute my emptiness
Into vastness.
Allowing sorrow to carve me like a knife.
Deepening me
Creating more space
To fill with lights flame.
I am the cosmic cauldron
Transmuting again and again
The alchemy of turning sorrow into joy
Darkness into light
The phoenix as it rises from the ashes,
And into the vast abyss,
Takes flight

You can find more about Gytė at gyteskirkaite.com, and instagram.com/gytesky








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