Israelis Agog Over ‘Secret River’ Near Dead Sea

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of Route 90 at the southern Dead Sea. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A “secret river” in southern Israel revealed in a report by Kan News Sunday isn’t such a secret, Dead Sea Industries said in a statement Tuesday. “This phenomenon was known and has been discussed and analyzed several times in the past,” the statement said. “In addition, Dead Sea Industries has made sure to act responsibly and work with authorities to ensure the preservation of the river.”

The company released the statement after receiving thousands of emails and social media messages both from hikers and environmentalists regarding the large river, which is located on lands licensed to Dead Sea Industries for mineral excavation. The existence of the river, which came as a surprise to most Israelis, was revealed in the Kan News report, which showed images of the river. It is located slightly to the west of the Dead Sea, is about ten kilometers long, and has a depth of about 20 meters. Unlike many of the riverlets in the area, this river flows all year long, including in the dry summer season.

The river, according to geologists who spoke to Yediot Achronot, is not a natural phenomenon, but a man-made one. “Dead Sea Industries takes water out of the Dead Sea when it mines minerals, and it recycles the water via an aqueduct in the north of the sea,” said Yohanan Artzi, an engineer for Dead Sea Industries. “Because of the differences in elevation between the sea and pools where the water gathers, and added to these the flow from annual winter flooding, some of the water returns to the sea via this channel. This is a ‘river’ in the sense that it flows all year long, because the water is recycled all year long.”

The revelation of the river launched major discussions on social media among hikers and outdoor adventurers, all curious as to the exact location – with an eye towards planning a hike to see it. Bad idea, said Dr. Nadav Lansky of the Israel Geological Institute. Lansky, who has been studying the phenomenon for the past 17 years, said that “the river was created in the 1980s, perhaps before. We have flown over it and ridden it on a boat. But one cannot reach it on foot, because besides being on land belonging to Dead Sea Industries, the area has a large number of unexploded mines. I know the public will be disappointed, but unfortunately that is the situation.”