A former naval officer aims to shed light on the plight of the Dead Sea by paddling
Retired senior naval officer Benny “Pinky” Hod of Tel Aviv aims to paddle his “hasake” board north to south of what remains of the Dead Sea in a bid to draw attention to the decline fast from the sea and announce its potential for tourism and sport.
He plans to complete the trip in five or six sections.
The hasake, an Israeli creation that looks like a cross between a large surfboard and a small boat, was originally designed to allow lifeguards along Israel’s beaches to quickly reach swimmers in difficulty and return to land without having to turn over in the waves.
On Friday, Hod completed the first stretch, from the point where the Jordan River enters the Dead Sea to Kalia Beach, one of three beaches along the deeper northern part of the sea that are still accessible to the public as the shore receded and chasms opened up.
Hod, 67, was accompanied by more than 70 swimmers, kayaks and paddleboards from Save the Dead Sea, a group trying to raise awareness about the Dead Sea, which is shrinking by about 1.10 meters (3.6 feet) every year.
This is mainly because fresh water that once compensated for water loss through evaporation has been diverted for human use by Syrians, Jordanians and Israelis.
Mineral extraction companies in Israel and Jordan also draw large amounts of water, returning less than they withdraw.
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Crossing the approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the Dead Sea is the third adventure Hod will undertake on his hasake.
Hod’s late father, Uzi, who served in the police force in the northern city of Haifa, had a haske he used when off duty.
Pinky acquired her board from the country’s only producer in Acre, northern Israel, and paddled from Rosh Hanikra in the far north of Israel to the Gaza border in the south in memory of her father.
After that he paddled from the Jordanian border on the Red Sea to the Egyptian border at Taba.
Navigating the Dead Sea presents different challenges, he told The Times of Israel. While the hasake floats easily on heavily salted water, there are extremely strong winds and waves.
“I want to show that you can enjoy the Dead Sea even in its current state. Maybe if more people come, it will create pressure to do something. We are very good at blaming each other for what is happening, but my message would be that if we all come together to seek a solution, the sky is the limit.