In 2011, I represented Israel at the Venice Biennale. While setting up my exhibition in this historic city of canals and bridges, the idea came to me of creating a physical link across the body of water separating my native country and Jordan. I envisaged a bridge across the Dead Sea incorporating unique elements of the sea itself. This project, the Dead Sea Salt Bridge, is aiming for completion in early 2017. We are examining site options as well as the philosophical and political aspects of the installation.
The Dead Sea, which Israel and Jordan share, is an ancient salt lake. At 430 metres below sea level, it is the lowest place on Earth. These shores symbolise not only death and sterility, they also retain some or the highest naturally occurring salinity rates on the planet. In both Hebrew and Arabic, it is called a salt rather than a dead sea. Located along a deep and long divide within the rift valley between Syria and Africa, this sea represents the painful, persistent separation between Israel and the Arab world.
The Dead Sea Salt Bridge envisions a crossing, actual or representational, in the form of two symbolic broken bridges. Located on the Eastern and Western shores, each proposed half-bridge would be built around a 25 metre crane, which serves as a base for two distinct sculptural formations. These cranes represent shared aspirations to restore the sea to the 25 metre depth that it used to have until 40 years ago.
Due to ever–increasing human water consumption, the level of the Dead Sea has decreased at an alarming rate of more than one metre per year since 1970. The diversion of fresh water tributaries for irrigation has contributed to this phenomenon. In addition, both Israel and Jordan drain vast amounts of Dead Sea water in order to commercially harvest potash. Water consumption has accelerated the decrease in water level, volume and surface area, leaving erosional terraces on both sides of the lake.
This project is inspired by diverse artists engaged in sculpture, space, light and earthworks, including Anish Kapoor, James Turrell and the late Robert Smithson. It stands among tourist attractions constructed of natural materials, such as temporary ice hotels in Canada, Finland, Japan Romania and Sweden, as well as dramatic innovations such as Malaysia’s Langkawi Sky Bridge, the Palm Islands of Dubai, the unusual designs of the SANAA architectural firm and the floating bridges operational in Norway and the United States.
Some 3.8 million tourists visit Petra, Jordan annually. Another 2.8 million people tour Masada in Israel each year. Dead Sea tourism also generates billions of dollars for both countries but is subject to regional instability. Although the Allenby Bridge has served as a border crossing since 2004, it holds little if any appeal for tourists. A physical bridge spanning this terminal lake could greatly enhance the tourism industry on both shores of the Dead Sea.
Sigalit Landau’s grandfather Jacob Sonntag (1905-1984) was the founding editor of Jewish Quarterly.
More information on the Dead Sea Salt Bridge.