It’s set in the lowest point on Earth, and it’s the saltiest lake on Earth – surrounded by a beach of splendid salt crystals, and breathtaking mountains. The Dead Sea is one of Israel’s natural wonders, and it has been one of the wonders of my life. It is actually one of the natural wonders of the entire world – that’s how the Israeli government feels and that’s why they would like to enter it in the Seven Natural Wonders of the World competition.
So what’s the problem? The problem, as usual, is the damn neighbors. The State of Israel received a letter from the Palestinian tourism minister, Khouloud Daibes, threatening to withdraw their consent to have the Dead Sea participate in the international competition, because the Israeli company, Ahava engages in activity on occupied Palestinian land. Daibes put it like this:
“I express my objection to promoting the Dead Sea in the competition, alongside products like Ahava, which are produced illegally in the Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian lands, and promoting the business of the Megilot Regional Council along the Dead Sea’s northern coast at the international tourism fair in London at the beginning of November.”
Stas Misezhnikov of the Israeli tourism ministry disagreed:
“If the Dead Sea wins the competition, the entire region will prosper, and this will help all the involved countries and entities: Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan…the attempt to drag a complicated diplomatic dispute into a competition which is based on honoring the seven wonders of the world does not serve any of the sides. Moreover, intervening in the competition in this manner may lead to the disqualification of the Dead Sea, and we will all be damaged.”
The minister told Ynet:
“It should be noted that 2008 was a record year in incoming tourism to Israel, and affecting the territories as well, which were visited by more than 1 million tourists. If the Dead Sea wins, this trend will grow even more.”
According to a Dutch Socialist Party website, the foreign minister of Holland intends to investigate if Ahava products, which bear the label, “Made in Israel” are actually made on occupied land.
The Dead Sea made it to the list of Natural Wonders of the World last July, along with 27 other sites, among them:
The Grand Canyon, Matterhorn, The Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Galapagos Islands, the Mud Volcanoes of Azerbaijan, Lebanon’s Jeita Grotto, Ireland’s Moher Cliffs and the Black Forest of Germany.