Israelis have been invited to decide whether their half of the Dead Sea shore should be redeveloped in keeping with its natural beauty or as a full-on, money-spinning concrete jungle.
Floating hotels, health spas and sprawling seaside malls are some of the more radical proposals put forward by the Ministry of Tourism, which wants citizens to help it decide how to spend a NIS 720 million investment pot recently approved by the Cabinet.
The sum represents the lion's share of a NIS 833 million fund to be invested in "environmental" tourism on the Dead Sea, which is not seen as being at odds with commercial development.
One of three choices the Israeli public has been invited to vote on includes "a significant area dedicated to commerce and shopping between hotels, entertainment attractions and… a range of tourist activities in one place." Another option is to create a traditional, beachfront-style resort with hotels by the water or perhaps built over it, Maldives-style, along with a floating health spa. An as-yet undefined "unique marine experience" would be part of this second plan.
The other alternative, which looks to be the favourite of internationally-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who is leading the programme, could be harder to sell to Israelis while their economy is so depressed. It requires maintaining the integrity of the natural desert landscape, with residential units and tourist attractions based exclusively around the healing waters of the Dead Sea and other natural resources.
Based on what the public vote for, the Ministry will decide whether to play on the beauty of the natural landscape, which would require holding back on development, or to go for another Eilat.