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Information about the dangers on Israeli beaches


Dangers at the Mediterranean Sea

  • Wave activity and coastal currents in the Mediterranean sea generally change from place to place and from one hour to the next, forming the main risk to swimming in the sea. The Mediterranean beaches in Israel have undergone many changes in the past twenty years as a result of the construction of ports, anchorages, marinas, and breakwaters that have interrupted the supply of sand and created coastal circulation accompanied by dangerous currents and water conditions.
  • The Mediterranean beaches, mainly in the center of the country, feature sandstone cliffs along the eastern edge of the beaches. The beaches are quite narrow, which leads to a lot of damage to the cliff bases, and there is concern that large blocks may collapse onto the beach and pose a danger to human life.

Behavior insights

  • It is highly recommended to get acquainted with the beach where you are swimming, and to know where the dangers lie. This information can be obtained at the lifeguard station.
  • You should act at the beach in line with how well you can swim and in accordance with instructions.
  • Please avoid hiking in prohibited places – on cliffs or cliff faces.
    Please be careful when you are at the bottom of the cliffs, and never sleep close to them.

Dangers at the Gulf of Eilat and Red Sea area

  • The sharp angle of the sea bed are places where there is a sharp transition from shallow to deep water. This means that there is deep water quite close to the beach.
  • Northwesterly winds can sweep you toward the open sea and beyond the boundaries with neighboring countries: Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Behavior insights

  • It is highly recommended to get acquainted with the beach where you are swimming, and to know where the dangers lie. This information can be obtained at the lifeguard station.
  • You should act at the beach in line with how well you can swim and in accordance with instructions.
  • Please avoid hiking in prohibited places – on cliffs or cliff faces.
    Please be careful when you are at the bottom of the cliffs, and never sleep close to them.
  • Please enter the water slowly and very carefully, and in all cases, go out into deep water only if you know how to swim well.
  • When there are strong winds, make sure you know their direction and act accordingly.

Dangers at the Sea of Galilee

  • Steep slope: The decline in the water level of the Sea of Galilee has caused the shoreline to retreat, particularly in the northern and western areas of the sea (Tiberias and the Golan beaches). This retreat has created places where there is a sharp transition from shallow to deep water.
  • Drift and sudden waves: The wind climate in the Sea of Galilee causes a phenomenon of strong westerly winds suddenly blowing in, mainly in the afternoon and early evening hours, which causes waves on the western edge of the sea that can sweep swimmers out into deep waters.
  • Boats in the areas: There is a lot of sailing and water sport activity in the Sea of Galilee, including water skiing, jet skis, racing boats, surfboards, and more. This activity takes place in close proximity to beaches declared as permitted for swimming, and quite a few accidents have happened in the past due to a lack of caution on the part of swimmers and those engaged in sailing and water sports.
  • Campgrounds alongside undeclared beaches: All along the Sea of Galilee shores, there are many campgrounds for vacationers, some of which are alongside undeclared beaches. The location of these campgrounds may mislead the public into thinking that there are lifeguard and first aid services at the site.

Behavior insights

  • It is highly recommended to get acquainted with the beach where you are swimming, and to know where the dangers lie. This information can be obtained at the lifeguard station.
  • You should act at the beach in line with how well you can swim and in accordance with instructions.
  • Please avoid hiking in prohibited places – on cliffs or cliff faces.
    Please be careful when you are at the bottom of the cliffs, and never sleep close to them.
  • Please enter the water slowly and very carefully.
  • When there are strong winds, it is better not to swim in the sea.
  • Avoid getting too close to sailing vessels in the area. When swimming, do not cross the line labeled for vessels sailing or floating a short distance from the beach.
  • Make sure to identify signs and instructions. Swimming is permitted only at declared beaches.

Dangers at the Dead Sea

  • Slipping: Due to the greasiness of the water in the Dead Sea, it is easy to slip, trip, or lose your balance in the water.
  • Swimming in the water: The heavy sea water leads to floating, acting as a counterforce to the body’s weight, and making it difficult to swim.
  • Swallowing sea water: When floating, or when transitioning from lying on your back to standing, you may swallow or ingest water into the digestive tract or the respiratory tract. The entry of seawater into the respiratory tract may lead to serious and rapid complications that impact the functioning of the lungs and the respiratory system.
  • Sinkholes: A phenomenon where holes open up in the ground.

Behavior insights

  • It is highly recommended to get acquainted with the beach where you are swimming, and to know where the dangers lie. This information can be obtained at the lifeguard station.
  • You should act at the beach in line with how well you can swim and in accordance with instructions.
  • Please avoid hiking in prohibited places – on cliffs or cliff faces.
    Please be careful when you are at the bottom of the cliffs, and never sleep close to them.
  • Be cautious about slipping, enter the water using the walking docks intended for the purpose, swim according to the prevailing conditions, and with maximum caution.
  • Make sure that you have the proper swimming capability, and take the proper actions, such as transitioning from lying on your back to a sitting position, and not directly to a standing position.
  • Spread sunscreen oil or cream on your body, wear appropriate clothing, wear a hat, and drink a lot of water.
  • To prevent burns, do not walk barefoot; wear sandals or flip-flops.
  • Walk carefully in areas where there are cracks or fissures in the ground, and avoid places where such features are fresh. Obtain information on this at the information stands and lifeguard stations.

What is a rip current?

The main phenomenon this article highlights is called a Rip current, and can also be called an “undertow”.
The coastal currents are responsible for the way the coastline is formed. Beaches are an environmental system that reacts to various dynamic processes. A chain of situations cause currents in close proximity to the coast – including winds, which cause waves that go back out to sea following different paths, troughs, pits, and … currents. The coastal morphodynamic system, including water flows, leads to the creation of shallow and deep areas along the coast, and to resulting currents.
Simply put, waves move from deep waters to shallow coastal areas and break. Since the breakage of the waves is not symmetrical, there will be a greater accumulation of water in some areas of the beach than others. This extra water will return in a circular path that drains back into the sea in a rip current.
The pictures on this page show the movement of waves toward the beach. The picture on the right side is one where there is no rip current, while the picture on the left shows the current created as a result of surplus water near the edges. The orange arrows indicate the rip current.

In the following picture, we can see that there are a number of rip currents on the same beach. There are almost no waves in the area of a rip current.

It is worth noting and emphasizing that the rip currents may change location based on the waves and the locations of underwater sandbars, so that the area of the rip current cannot always be labeled.

How to identify the rip current?

On the surface, the rip current area looks safer and calmer, with almost no waves and a darker shade of colors. It takes a lot of skill to identify rip currents by looking at the sea. That skill is generally an acquired skill of experienced lifeguards and surfers, while it can be taught to the general public as detailed in this article.

You can use a number of signs to identify rip currents:
  1. Areas where there are almost no waves breaking - the waves bring water to the beach while rip currents drain it back into the sea.
  2. Deeper water - Troughs and pits are created due to the movement of the currents on the ground over time.
  3. The color of the water is slightly different than the surrounding water - The rip current tends to be murkier as a result of sand that is mixed with the water, and silt or seaweed being swept out to sea.
  4. Froth on the water - There is sometimes froth on the water in the area of a rip current.

What to do if you encounter a rip current?

There is a chain of processes that create the morphodynamics of waves returning to the sea and dragging sand in the return flow, leading to troughs and pits that increase the return flow. The deeper troughs (and pits) in proximity to the beach lead to a loss of footing and stability on the part of swimmers, which makes them float. The current then sweeps them out to sea, without them being able to swim back to shore, even if they are good swimmers.

So what do we do?

  1. First, don’t panic. Keep a cool head. Our biggest enemy in such a case is ourselves. If we keep a cool head, our time in the current will be fast and short, and the sea will eventually return us to a shallow, sandy area where we can stand and regain our stability.
  2. Never swim against the current, and don’t struggle even if it is contrary to your initial reaction where you want to get out of danger fast. You must remember that the current will not let you do that, even if you are the best swimmer. Rip currents are the number one danger for someone who does not know how to swim, as well as for swimmers who do not know what to do. The speed of the rip current can be a meter per second in a relatively calm sea, which is quite a strong current. In a more choppy sea, it can reach several meters per second, which will overcome even an excellent swimmer. You don’t need to struggle against a rip current, and you should not do so. When we feel that we are being swept out to sea, our immediate instinct is to get back to the shore, but since the rip current is usually too strong, our meager attempt, which is usually accompanied by panic , will only cause us to lose strength, and eventually to drown. The most important thing to remember is not to struggle against the current. Maintain your strength, remain calm, and keep your head above water. What will happen is that the current will sweep you out to the sea, and you will then be able to cut left or right in parallel to the shore to an area where the waves are breaking. There, you will find a shallow sandy area where you can stand and come out of the water through stable walking.
  3. Rest. If you become tired during attempts to get out of the water, stop exerting effort, breathe deeply, lie on your back, and begin floating calmly. Remember that most cases of drowning are a result of swallowing water, tiredness, cramped muscles, and … stress.
  4. Declared beaches supervised by lifeguards. In any case, it is important to use only declared beaches where there are active lifeguard services. The lifeguards know the coastal currents well. The preparatory work of the lifeguard team begins in the early morning hours, by placing signs and flags that are intended to prevent entry to areas with rip currents. If you encounter a rip current on a declared swimming beach manned by a lifeguard, signal this by taking a complete and clear floating position and move your hands in a lifting motion toward the lifeguard station that you are in need of help. In most cases, the lifeguards will already be on their way to you.

In summation

Based on many interviews we have had with beach lifeguards, we believe that the main danger, and the main cause of death by drowning on Mediterranean beaches is rip currents.
The lifeguards on declared beaches do herculean work in directing the public to safe swimming areas where there are no rip currents, and they do this though signal flags, signs, and verbal directions. “Dune” “pit”, “remain standing on your legs and don’t lose contact with the seabed” – these are the prevalent terms lifeguards use to direct the public In dealing with rip currents.
The Ministry of the Interior, the government ministry responsible for the law regulating swimming locations, should be acknowledged for its part in increasing beach safety, including increasing public awareness of the importance of swimming under supervision and direction from lifeguards. Lifeguards are not always to be found at the beach, and as we know, most drowning cases take place where there is no lifeguard supervising the beach.

Guard your life carefully.