The Dead Sea was not among the winners in the New7Wonders of Nature contest despite a high profile campaign by the Israeli government, according to a list of provisional results released at about 9:30 p.m. on Friday.

Among the winners, were the Amazon of South America, Halong Bay of Vietnam, Iguazu Falls of Argentina and Brazil, Jeju Island of South Korea, Komodo of Indonesia, Puerto Princesa Underground River of the Philippines and Table Mountain of South Africa.

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“It is possible that there will be changes between the above provisional winners and the eventual finally confirmed winners,” the official competition website said. “The voting calculation is now being checked, validated and independently verified, and the confirmed winners will be announced starting early 2012 during the official inauguration ceremonies.” People voted online and via text message.

As of Sunday, the Dead Sea, representing Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, had been trending among the top 10 finalists, and by earlier on Friday, the contest officials had announced that it was among the top 14 after voting had concluded.

“I would like to thank all who have assisted and voted for the Dead Sea,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov. “Though we did not win the title, thanks to the impressive campaign led by the Ministry of Tourism over the last two years, hundreds of millions of people worldwide have now been exposed to the Dead Sea and Israel, and placed their vote. This is a true victory for Israel’s image abroad, the fruits of which we will see in the next few years in the investment, rehabilitation and development of the Dead Sea.”

The Tourism Ministry led a comprehensive public relations campaign to popularize the Dead Sea, and in May, the cabinet approved a NIS 8.75 marketing budget to further spread the word about the vote. In mid-October Meseznikov launched a countdown clock to the contest’s end on the top of the Tel Aviv Crown Plaza City Center, and about a week later, the education minister and prime minister hosted a virtual classroom about the Dead Sea for students nationwide.

“Tourism is one of the most important means of development in Israel and the positive exposure received by the Dead Sea and Israel in general, is a true victory for us all, and which will dramatically increase tourism, promote economic growth and development in the region as well as new employment opportunities and revenue for the Israeli economy,” Meseznikov added.

Dov Litvinoff, mayor of the Tamar Regional Council, the southern of the two councils that border on the Dead Sea, expressed his disappointment in the loss.

“I’m disappointed because we were so close,” Litvinoff told The Jerusalem Post on Friday night.

“We were just in the 14, but also we are very proud of our Dead Sea and the place that we got after four years of campaigns and 400 nominees. We are among the 14, so I think it’s a great achievement for the place. I think this campaign we had here did a lot of good for the Dead Sea. Of course we are disappointed but we are also proud.”

The day before, Litvinoff had told the Post that he was afraid a loss would push the Dead Sea backward in the government’s list of priorities.

“I’m still afraid that if we’re not one of the seven wonders and we don’t have the stamp of the world… we will be forgotten,” he said Friday night. “Every day you have new problems in Israel, you have new challenges that you have to confront, and I am afraid that the Dead Sea will be forgotten again. But I’m sure that if it depends on me... we will not let anybody forget the Dead Sea again.”

Knesset members that had been involved with promoting the Dead Sea’s cause stressed that Israelis must continue to fight for the salty body despite the loss.

“Precisely because it didn’t win, we must restore the Dead Sea and preserve its status as a world wonder of nature,” said MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz). “We urgently need to deal with the dropping level in the northern basin as a result of dehydration and over-pumping, and rapidly performing the harvest of salt in the southern basin. If the government does not do this and continues to bury its head in the sand, the Dead Sea will gradually disappear.”

MK Dov Henin (Hadash) agreed.

“The Dead Sea is still one of the wonders of the world,” said Henin, who serves as chairman of the Knesset Committee of Environment and Health. “We always knew this and the whole world will also recognize this. We have a big responsibility – the sea is in a severe condition of dehydration, deterioration and destruction.

The real test is on the Dead Sea, and will face the government on Sunday. It is very easy to impose on the public responsibility to send an SMS, but it is a bit harder to take real responsibility and act in defense of the Dead Sea and for its rehabilitation. Our comprehensive bill, which produces real mechanisms of the defense of the Dead Sea, is an opportunity that we cannot miss.”

Henin was referring to a bill that is coming to the cabinet for a vote on Sunday that he had previously submitted to the Knesset, which would provide for the future protection and rehabilitation of the Dead Sea. Green group Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V’Din), which was responsible for drafting the bill, also emphasized just how important passing the bill is.

“Even without the title,” Israel must work toward protecting the sea, according to a statement from Na’ama Heller, legal director of the group.

“The region of the Dead Sea is in a state of continuous deterioration and if we don’t stop this dangerous process, we will lose this wonderful treasure of nature,” she said.

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