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The Wonder List

Is the Dead Sea dying?

Bill Weir, CNNUpdated 18th April 2015
(CNN) — I was coming home from war coverage in Iraq, flying through Amman, Jordan when my buddy/producer had an idea.
"Let's go to Petra," he said. "Maybe take a float in the Dead Sea."
"The Wonder List" host Bill Weir travels to the Dead Sea and discovers how ancient travelers reacted to the salty body of water.
After a day pretending to be Indiana Jones in the ancient ruins, we reached the lowest beach in the world at sunset and I'll never forget my first dip in the most bizarre swimming hole I've ever seen.
I still remember wading into warm -- almost hot - -viscous liquid that stings the eyes, lips and (ahem) nether regions while making the body float like a bobber. Amazing.
Years later, when I read that this ancient, salty center of the Holy Land was disappearing at an alarming rate and enormous sink holes were opening and swallowing the footprints of prophets and saints, I just had to go there.
What I found surprised me more than any other stop on "The Wonder List."
The main reason the Dead Sea is evaporating is because the River Jordan is nearly dead.
Does the Dead Sea defy its name and heal those who swim in it? "The Wonder List" with Bill Weir travels to a medical spa to find out.
This is the river where Christians believe John baptized Jesus. Muslims believe the banks of the Jordan hold the remains of friends of Mohammed. Yet a river that is holy to half of humanity has been dammed and diverted to a trickle, the weeping willows that once shaded the banks are endangered and wildlife is scarce.
But hardly anyone takes notice because walking down to the banks of the Jordan means crossing a militarized zone, choked with barbed wire and littered with land mines.
It seems like another bit of evidence for those inclined to believe that the next World War will be fought over water.
But the people I met described a much different reality.
Heading to the Dead Sea, soldiers took them to a bunker to see something unexpected and beautiful. Go 'Behind the Shot' with The Wonder List's Philip Bloom.
Though the Six Days War began partly over water, Israel's peace treaty with Jordan is held together with an agreement to share water. Even in the worst of the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the pipes into Gaza still flow and back channels between water managers stay open.
In the desert, a thirsty enemy is a more desperate enemy so if there is the slightest hope for a path to peace in the Middle East, it will probably have something to do with water.
The southwestern coastline of the Dead Sea is in Israel. The sea also borders the West Bank and Jordan.
Bill Weir/CNN
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