Twenty-five swimmers took part in the first-ever Dead Sea Swim Challenge to raise awareness for the plight of this salty body of water.

The event is being dubbed “life-threatening and complex” because of the sea’s high density, extremely salty water. Swimmers were outfitted in special face masks and body suits.

But the adventurous group of international and local swimmers who came up with this never-tried-before idea says their effort can bring much needed publicity to the environmental impact on the Dead Sea.

“If it’s possible to do the impossible, like swimming across the Dead Sea, then it’s possible to save the Dead Sea.”

The Dead Sea has receded by 25 meters in just 30 years and has lost a third of its surface area.

“We see the life threatening challenge of the swim, parallel to the challenges facing the Dead Sea. The region is on the verge of paying an irreversible price if government policies across the region are not changed. The Jordan River has always been the life blood of the Dead Sea and cooperation, as witnessed here by the swimmers, is urgently needed to revitalize the Jordan River and help stabilize the Dead Sea,” says Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East.

5 a.m. start for the Dead Sea Swim Challenge. Photo courtesy of EcoPeace Middle East
5 a.m. start for the Dead Sea Swim Challenge. Photo courtesy of EcoPeace Middle East
Swimmers set out to cross the Dead Sea. Photo courtesy of EcoPeace Middle East
Swimmers set out to cross the Dead Sea. Photo courtesy of EcoPeace Middle East

EcoPeace Middle East — a Jordanian, Palestinian, Israeli environmental peacebuilding organization that focuses on the region’s water and environment issues — and the Tamar Regional Council in Israel sponsored the event.

“What was destined to have been one of the highlights of Israel’s tourism industry is gradually becoming a wasteland due to the difficulty of developing long term plans. We hope this activity and similar one’s in the future helps garner both Israeli and international support in favor of finding a solution soon, so that the Dead Sea doesn’t become a footnote in the geography books of generations to come,” says Dov Litvinoff, Head of the Tamar Regional Council.

The swimmers – hailing from as far away as New Zealand as well as local athletes — jumped into the hypersaline salt water lake at 7 a.m. local time on the Jordanian side. They are attempting to stroke their way to the shores of Ein Gedi Spa on the Israeli side of the lake.

The Dead Sea shore. Image via www.shutterstock.com
The Dead Sea shore. Image via www.shutterstock.com
Swimmers crossing the Dead Sea. Photo courtesy of EcoPeace Middle East
Swimmers crossing the Dead Sea. Photo courtesy of EcoPeace Middle East

“This swim, as opposed to all others, is risky in any sense – it is in harsh conditions, needs a specific support team including medical devices since the salinity here is almost 35 per cent and suffocation can be immediate. In addition the eyes cannot be exposed to such waters and so the whole configuration of the swim has to take this in consideration. We swim with a full mask and thus breathing is challenging,” says Oded Rahav, who initiated the idea for the Dead Sea Swim Challenge and a swimmer in the event.

“If it’s possible to do the impossible, like swimming across the Dead Sea, then it’s possible to save the Dead Sea. We are not just interested in raising awareness, but creating real action to benefit the Dead Sea,” says Rahav.