The excitement was building all day Friday as a friend (we attended Burning Man in 2006) and I were getting ready for Spencer Tunick’s historic Dead Sea photo shoot early on Saturday morning. We kept checking the web all day to hear of any last minute developments that would prevent the shoot from happening.
We were assured by the organizers that it will happen and the 1,000 plus people will be boarding buses throughout Israel on schedule early Saturday. We arrived at the Arlozorov train station in Tel Aviv a bit early at 11:30 PM on Friday night to join up with the masses awaiting to board the many buses in line to depart.
The departure time that was communicated to the TA group was 1AM. We ended up leaving a bit after 3. Given the hordes of people, ID cards and paperwork to be checked, the operation ran very smoothly. While waiting, we bumped into friends, made new ones and connected with people on many levels.
We were all very excited (and tired), but the thought of disrobing for the sake of art and history was awakening! Yes. We were doing this for the sake of art and being part of history, but most importantly, we wanted to bring attention to the plight of the Dead Sea, a candidate for inclusion in the world-renowned list: The Seven Wonders of the World. At current estimates, the Dead Sea will disappear within 50 years due to its draining resources by companies looking to exploit it for the sake of money.
You can feel the excitement in the air!
So, here we were. I would say there were more than 500 people leaving from Tel Aviv with the remainder leaving from such cities as Be’er Sheva, Netanya, Jerusalem and Haifa. Most of the organizers and even some of the drivers didn’t even know where our final destination along the sea would be, as the project in the past few weeks had hit some snags. But, that did not deter Spencer, Ari Fruchter (curator for the event) and the rest of the Naked Sea 2011 team.
When there’s a will there is a way. This was going to be the climax of many months of planning.
When we arrived to the spot by way of Jerusalem, we were greeted and steered by organizers and security personnel who guided us to the bathrooms and the beach where chairs were set up (most of us sat on the beach) for the clothed observers and the soon-to-be-naked models.
We were briefed by a few of the Naked Sea 2011 team and then by Spencer who explained how it was going to go down as far as choreography and safety. Don’t drink the water, splash and move slowly were some of the things repeated many times.
Even before Spencer told us to disrobe, people were already undressing. We had only a few hours to get this done as the permit only lasted till 8AM. We hit the water just before 6AM. Spencer and his team were battling time and the sun. There were some people my friend and I spoke to that just did not see the meaning behind what we were about to do: This was not pornography. This was art. Everyone was extremely respectful and cool. Sometimes, it takes a provocative act of this sort to wake people up.
Much more than being naked
This was more than just being about 1,000 people in the buff. This was about bringing attention to the cause of the Dead Sea and its rapidly impending demise. This was about waking people up and a call to action.
The vulturous paparazzi in a plane and via other flying vehicles swarmed above us for about half an hour snapping their own shots, sometimes hovering so low that it drowned out Spencer’s directions over a megaphone. They may have gotten many shots, but most of them were probably of two thousand middle fingers waving at them. The males were a bit jealous as the females got to pose for shoots covered in mud.
This morning as I scanned the web for articles, new ones were popping up every hour or so. Washington Post, the Israeli press, Reuters, NY Newsday, Green Prophet and a slew of others. My friend and I discussed how it sorta gave us the same feeling that we had after Burning Man as far as being therapeutic and relaxing (the Dead Sea is a natural calming drug) and how we felt alive and rejuvenated (after our Shabbat afternoon nap).
Today I feel refreshed and inspired by what we all have done. As Israelis, tourists, as concerned citizens of the world. As Spencer said on more than a few occasions, this is the only place in the Middle East that an event like this can even be discussed. Let alone carried out.
As Spencer walked up to the gathering area being trailed closely by the press, we snapped photos with him and gave him a Hero’s welcome. It was a great day and one I and a thousand or so others will remember for the rest of our lives. Great job Naked Sea 2011 Team!!
Alex Gutman is a new immigrant to Israel via NYC and has been writing for over 15 years. He currently works in the High Tech industry as a Technology Evangelist/Publicist and a Copywriter. He has written short stories, travelogues and a variety of different styles over the years. He has a BA in Speech Communications, is well-traveled, single and lives in Tel Aviv. He has also been involved in the Music industry since the mid-90s as a manager, promoter and concert producer working with some famous Israeli artists Internationally. He can be reached at [email protected] His LinkedIn profile can be found here.