1000 Naked Israelis Strip to Save the Dead Sea

Spencer Tunick’s naked shoot at the Dead Sea in Israel: yes, some women even got covered in Dead Sea mud.

Cloaked in secrecy, they wouldn’t know the location until they got into the bus. While politics in the Middle East seems to overshadow environmental issues, some passionate Israelis decided to be a part of history, and photographer Spencer Tunick’s dream of his latest “Naked Sea” installation, at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

The nude models aged 18 to 77 met early Saturday morning, according to one participant, calling it both exhilarating and strangely natural to be part of one of the latest Tunick projects. Tunick who comes from a religious Jewish family in New York has done about 75 naked installations in cities around the world. This one was about environmental awareness and freedom in the Middle East. The Dead Sea is rapidly sinking due to water shortages from one end in the north as the Jordan River runs dry, and greedy chemical companies from Israel and Jordan on the south side.

The Dead Sea’s surface is receding by about one meter (39 inches) every year, and it could be dry by 2050 if it is not protected.

Despite condemnation from Jewish religious authorities, the “strippers” fearlessly dropped their drawers earlier this morning. While some areas of Israel are extremely conservative – like Jewish, Muslim and religious Christians in Jerusalem, most of the country can be found on a spectrum between very religious or completely secular. There is a freedom of choice.

“In some places the work is a little bit more controversial, and then in other places the works are accepted as a litmus test for how free a country is, or how open a country is, and how full of rights a country is,” he said in a pre-shoot press briefing.

One participant writing to the Jerusalem Post reported:

“This is not just to make art, this is to celebrate that this is happening in Israel,” Tunick told the crowd before we undressed, explaining that he has made over 20 trips to Israel and has family in Netanya and Kibbutz Revivim. This installation, he added, could not happen nowhere else in the Middle East.

After an hour-late start, buses from cities throughout the country converged at a closely-guarded secret location at the northern end of the Dead Sea, around 5 a.m. Following a short introduction – “make sure not to smile when you’re in position” – the entire crowd rose as one and removed their clothes.

“I thought it would be harder to get undressed in front of so many people, but it was liberating,” said Zev, from Tel Aviv.

Some called the experience quiet and zen-like, at least until the aerial gliders started swooping in to take their own pictures, making it uncomfortable for some of the models. But Israel being a small country, it’s really hard to do anything, especially a massive naked installation in secrecy.

The gliders, which stayed for around half an hour, cast a pall over the installation and made it impossible to hear Tunick’s directions as he was racing against the sun to capture the photograph.

Every color of the Jewish and Israeli rainbow?

Aside from the issue with the planes, the event went off without incident, fairly impressive considering the harsh physical environment which could have easily caused serious injury to the participants. After an hour in the Dead Sea holding different positions – certainly the longest I have ever been in the salty water, and an experience I hope never to repeat – and an hour standing in the sun, I started to feel a bit like beef jerky, well salted and laid out to harden in the sun.

Anne Grant, the participant also pointed out that there was an all-male shoot, and for curious readers one with women covered in Dead Sea mud. Some oddballs, she adds, tried to prolong the experience by not getting dressed after the shoot was over. Since the permit to be naked on the beach lasted only until 8 am, one of the organizers started freaking out, especially by the naked guys – one was smoking a cigarette, another one was playing the flute.

“Today I’m just a catalyst for more than 1,000 Israeli artists,” Tunick told the Jerusalem Post after the shoot. “This is important, even for religious people. The safety of democracy is dependent on a society that accepts freedom of expression in art.”

::Jerusalem Post

Images via Yaron Brenner

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31 thoughts on “1000 Naked Israelis Strip to Save the Dead Sea”

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  2. john says:

    I am not sure whether “freedom of choice” is a term that can accurately be used of the “Jewish state”!

    1. John – what’s your point, can you explain further? Most open-minded liberals come from Christian states, so Christianized that they don’t even realize they are Christian states. There are other ways of building societies based on “other” religious values one finds in the Middle East – be it upon the first and original monotheistic state (Judaism – and the foundation of modern law by the way) or the third which is Islam. Having spent a lot of time in Israel I can say that the people here do offer much more freedom of choice and freedom of expression to the other, more so than in the so-called liberal and social country in Canada where I was born and raised, and in Europe where I have travelled extensively.

  3. PrinceHarley says:

    Or naked Jews for that matter!

  4. PrinceHarley says:

    How, pray tell, do naken Jews strip? Very shoddy grammar.

  5. sunofzion says:

    This is not a political issue and yet the responses write about, genocide, poor P’s, apartheid and other non issues. Let’s write about the murderers in Syria, Iran and the ”silent” spring in the Arab world…

  6. Jacob says:

    I agree with Mike Ellis; How DOES a naked person strip? Who thought up the headline?

  7. Mike Ellis says:

    How does a naked person strip?

  8. JTR says:

    As long as the human population continues to grow the Dead Sea will continue to shrink.

  9. Z says:

    Interesting how the Jews can enjoy such freedoms yes the poor plestinians are not even allowed to visit one part of the dead sea .unless u hold us or Israeli citizenship,you will be shot to death for even attempting.I wish the world could see what is happening to Palestinians and how difficult their lives are.imagine living 2 miles from the dead sea and not even allowed to see it’s beauty.

  10. I knew I liked Sea Salt for a reason. Man, I do not get out enough, I always wanted to go to Israel. Hey, the Dead Sea is not that dead after all! After a party like that, we could have a blast playing naked twister! Amedeo Bianchi

  11. Analyst says:

    The radical muslims will strip off the skin also.

  12. Agunbiade Babatunde says:

    Good efforts but more political actions to defeat unplanned society of the few greed men and women and their companies.

  13. suheil.palestine says:

    Ironically, the dead sea is in PALESTINIAN territories……..

    1. It is in three territories to be correct: the PA, Israel and Jordan.

  14. avid.flyer says:

    I am sorry but anyone over the age of thirty or over weight by thirty pounds needs to keep thier close on in my opinion.

  15. TORAH Keeper says:

    BLASPHEMY! PURE BLASPHEM! What an affront to the Elohim (God) of Israel! They should be ashamed!! All Israel should be ashamed of such behavior!!

    May Yahuah have mercy………..

  16. Analyst1 says:

    The people of Israel care for saving the resources of their country.
    The government of Israel is only interested in its military might.
    The chemical companies only interest is profits.
    How will the crisis of the Dead Sea be solved??

  17. bribo says:

    Last time we saw that many naked jews…..

  18. rob lloyd says:

    Dear Lord,

    Please cause a deluge, the size and volume of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, of your finest organic RAT POISON to cover those nekkid bodies. Lord, we don’t ask for much, please in the name of Mary and Little Baby Jesus, do this for us. And try to splash some on Rabbi Popeye if you can.
    Thank you God.

  19. Michael Wind says:

    unbelievable,its time for florida jews to get naked to see what they got,but here u need IRS.

  20. SAS says:

    You know a country’s international image is deep in the abyss when its citizens need to expose themselves to actually improve it.

    Of course, since Israeli are free to skinny dip in the Dead Sea, it follows they cannot be either an apartheid regime or an occupier.

    1. Suhail,

      Honestly – there have been 75 Tunick shoots around the world, in the UK for art galleries: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8655680.stm to Spain to America. Give it a rest.

  21. Couldn’t find any good news out of Reuters, but alot of positive press elsewhere. Inspired another story even!

  22. Maurice says:

    “Buck naked” at the Dead Sea! This should bring more attention to what needs to be done to save this natural wonder. My articles about it have dealt with the scientific and environmental aspects of the lake’s situation. This act by Tunick and his willing volunteers emphasizes the physical and even spiritual aspects.

    Maybe this can be done at the Lower Jordan River as well – stay out of the water though – its hazardous to health!

  23. Alex G says:

    Lots of images and a few youtube videos as well..You should come to the slideshow tomorrow night!

    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=247393668635816

    Alex

  24. Now we just have to wait for the images!

  25. Actually it got fairly good media coverage in the Washington Post and I think Reuters. Not bad!

  26. Alex G says:

    Great Article! I was a participant and have to say it was one of the most refreshing and spiritual experiences of my life. Let the world see the openness of Israel. The freedom we enjoy is twisted around by those such as the ones at the Durban conference. Why are we being isolated? Why are we being accused of racism? Apartheid? If anyone wants to take a look at real Apartheid, they should go to Saudi Arabia, where Jews are not even allowed to visit. Where women are second class citizens. Let the news of this great event be spread around the world. I would love to see a NY Times article about this. but, no blood was spilled, so it probably won’t! keep up the great work!

    Alex G
    Ha’Tikva, Tel Aviv, israel

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