Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
The Dead Sea is among 14 finalists in a global internet vote next year to choose the 7 wonders of the natural world, organisers said on Tuesday August 25, 2009.
The famously salty lake at the lowest point in the world is in the running for a place alongside spectacular natural phenomena such as the Amazon River, the Galapagos Islands, the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef.
The Dead Sea is shared by Israel, Jordan and the occupied West Bank. It was almost eliminated from the contest (www.new7wonders.com) earlier this year when Middle East politics blocked their required cooperation.
But a last-minute compromise allowed the candidacy to proceed to the next stage. Final results are due in 2011, by which time the organisers expect one billion people will have voted online.
Click below for a multi-media ’essay’ on the Dead Sea.
We’d be far too modest to claim to have made peace in the Middle East, but…
It’s been a lively week down at the Dead Sea, a short drive downhill from the Reuters bureaux in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Our colleagues Douglas Hamilton and Ali Sawafta do appear to have played some small part in shifting some political roadblocks that threatened to thwart plans to get the lowest place on earth voted in as one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
It's not often you hear the Palestinians and Israelis compared to Jesus or the international community likened to Christ's closest disciples. But the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, did just that in his address at Pope Benedict's Mass in the Valley of Josephat today. This is the valley just east of the old city of Jerusalem, close to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed in agony before he was arrested by the Romans led by Judas. The Apostles Peter, James and John had accompanied him but they stayed a short distance away and fell asleep while Jesus prayed. Twal used this image to make a link between that Gospel episode and current day Middle East politics:
"Just a few yards from here, Jesus said to his most favored disciples "Remain here, and watch with me" (Mt. 26:39). But these same disciples closed their eyes, not losing sleep over Jesus' agony, only a short distance away in the Garden of Gethsemane."
The Holy Land is scrambling in its preparations for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI, pouring millions of dollars into infrastructure and security. It comes just nine years after his predecessor, John Paul II, made his historical visit. He will be travelling from May 8-15.
More than 1 million Christian pilgrims passed through Israel last year, and the tourism ministry is preparing for a spike in that number around the time of the pope's visit. The pontiff will travel with heavy security, sometimes on new roads built specifically for him.