10/25/2011 23:32

PM: Becoming one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature” will bring crucial tourism.
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Students and teachers around the country logged online on Tuesday morning for 40 minutes of virtual learning about the Dead Sea, as part of the government’s broad campaign to make the salty body of water one of the internationally recognized “New 7 Wonders of Nature.”

The program, organized by the Education Ministry, provided students with scientific information and historical details of the sea, emphasizing its shared importance among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and featuring introductions from both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

At the height of the experience, The Jerusalem Post noted that more than 170 users were signed into the virtual portal, and many of these single users represented entire classrooms of students.

“Everything starts with you, students of Israel – I want you to show favor for the Dead Sea, and I request that you vote for the Dead Sea,” Netanyahu told the students in his two-minute opening address.

The prime minister was referring to the international New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign that concludes on November 11, in which the Dead Sea remains one of 28 finalists.

Together with Sa’ar and Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, Netanyahu has been piloting a multi-million-shekel public relations campaign –or “journey,” as he called it – toward getting the shared body of water to the final seven. Last week, Meseznikov launched a giant countdown clock to the contest’s end from the top of Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Mall.

“It’s a wonderful and enchanting place, the lowest place in the world, a place with many colors, blue and white that mix with the colors of the earth, and one of the exceptional crevices on the surface of the earth,” Netanyahu said, also noting the archeological importance of the natural site.

“One of the ways to develop a special place like this is to bring people there, bring tourists there,” he added, explaining that keeping the Dead Sea “high on the ladder” in the competition would help achieve this outcome.

The classroom moderator, Dr.

Hanan Ginat, began the lesson by emphasizing the uniqueness of the Dead Sea and that “there is only one of it in the world.”

Made up of 34 percent salt, the sea is 10 times as salty as the Mediterranean, yet still harbors life forms inside and around it, said Ginat, who is the science director of the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center and a lecturer at the Arava Institute.

But the salty water – “the lowest place in the entire world” – faces its share of problems, he cautioned.

“The Dead Sea drops one meter each year,” Ginat said.

While the Dead Sea water levels in the northern portion are continuing to drop one meter annually, the waters in the southernmost pool are actually dangerously rising 10 centimeters per year, and one solution to this problem may be a salt harvest, he explained.

The cooperation of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority is “without a doubt” necessary, Ginat continued, in order to maintain and protect the Dead Sea.

Even in a black and white photo dated 1931, people are pictured “coming to quarry salt” from the region, an industry that continues into today.

At the conclusion of Ginat’s lecture, a salt formation in the shape of an open-mouthed dragon conveys through a speech bubble: “Please vote for me as one of the seven wonders of the world. Yours, the Dead Sea.”

Netanyahu similarly opened and closed his address to the students with pleas that they vote for the Dead Sea. He recalled that one of his sons, a high school student, told him about a year ago, “Dad, we must help the Dead Sea; it’s a thing that’s important, justified, right, and beautiful – it helps the State of Israel.”

To which the prime minister added, “So I am here on a mission for the student – for the students – to request: Vote, and we’ll meet at the Dead Sea.”

Votes can be cast at