Despite the fact that we are told not to put too much salt in our food, we cannot live without salt. And salt is used not only as a condiment for food.The visitors’ center at the Atlit Salt Works has interesting displays (in English as well as Hebrew) showing all the uses of this essential substance.I was recently shown around the facility by Bathen Fisher of the visitors’ center, which opened two years ago in a renovated building that was formerly the storehouse for the salt works, and I learned some very interesting – and surprising – facts.All the salt sold in supermarkets and grocery stores in Israel (with the exception of specialty imports) is manufactured by the Salt of the Earth company, which was founded in Atlit in 1922 with the production of salt from seawater. Atlit was chosen as the site of salt production because of the climate and the fact that since the town is on the coast, there is abundant seawater in the locality.A photograph in the exhibition shows men pushing wheelbarrows on wooden walkways, but later a narrow- gauge railway was constructed to transport the salt from the pans to the storehouse. The railway was fairly extensive, but today all that remains is a memento in front of the visitors’ center – a restored locomotive based on one that worked there, as well as two wagons.The process of extracting salt from the sea is shown in a 10-minute film in Hebrew or English. After the local swamps were drained, pools were formed and a motor was installed to fill the evaporation pools. The workers lived in tents at first, and later in huts.The salt factory was almost a town in its own right, and the workers were provided with all their personal and social needs, even a cinema. The water supplied to the residents of Atlit was salty. They became so accustomed to it that when they went elsewhere, they added salt to their drinking water! Wall panels in the museum explain the various uses of salt, as well as the history of its use. Salt is an essential nutrient, and the amount of salt in one’s diet influences health. It’s natural to think of the substance as being used primarily as an additive to food, but in fact only a tiny percentage of the world’s salt is used in cooking and food preparation.Salt was found to be a preservative around 10,000 years ago. In 3000 BCE it was used in Egypt to preserve mummies. Soldiers of the Roman Empire received part of their pay in salt, hence the word “salary.” In the 15th and 16th centuries, long sea voyages of discovery were made possible by the use of salt as a preservative for food, necessary on voyages lasting several years. In 1789, the salt tax imposed by the French government was one of the causes of the French Revolution; and in the American Civil War, northern forces targeted salt manufacturing plants in the South to weaken it.All industries need salt: paper manufacturing, metalwork, paint manufacture, rubber and plastic, dyeing synthetic fibers, cleaning materials and bleach, soap and cosmetics, optics, leather tanning, drilling oil wells, de-icing highways… the list is endless.An interesting item on display is a 1921 letter from a J.E. Shuckburgh to the Economic Board for Palestine stating that “Mr. Secretary [Winston] Churchill has been in communication with the High Commissioner for Palestine on the subject of a proposed grant for a concession for the extraction of table-salt from sea-water near Athlit in Palestine…” This was in the very early days of the British Mandate, when Churchill was secretary of state for the colonies.A Google search turned up some fascinating information on Shuckburgh. According to a document in the Zionist Archives, Sir John Evelyn Shuckburgh (1877-1953) was a deputy undersecretary of the British Colonial Office, evidently working in Palestine. He advocated allowing the Jewish community of Palestine to import weapons, and that not permitting them to protect themselves against Arab violence was in contradiction to Britain’s obligation under the Balfour Declaration. Among other things, he wrote: “The third course is to recognize gun-running and legalize it, until such time as we can adequately protect the Jews in Palestine by some efficient gendarmeries or police; or by developing their own organizations into a Police Reserve, as has already been contemplated. The cry ‘arming the Jews’ would of course be heard throughout Palestine but the Arabs have brought such action on themselves. Outbreaks will occur, but they will automatically cease almost at once, for the Arabs will be the aggressors, which will place Government forces on the side which is trying to protect itself. And by recognizing gun-running the Government will be able to allow for the first time its forces to march hand in hand with its policy. By this I do not intend that Zionism should be thrust on Palestine at the point of British bayonets.“I do, however, intend that Zionism in its initial stages shall be protected by the Power who has called it into being.”The Atlit Salt Works is a short walk from the Atlit railway station. Tours of the salt works must be booked in advance and are suitable for ages eight and up. Contact (04) 954-9561; firstname.lastname@example.org.