A weekend of wellness at Israel's Dead Sea

Vert Dead Sea became Israel’s first hotel to host a three-day Wellness Festival in mid-June. The event was a great success.

 The Wellness Festival at the Dead Sea. (photo credit: HAGAI SHALOM/NIR DAVIDZON)
The Wellness Festival at the Dead Sea.
(photo credit: HAGAI SHALOM/NIR DAVIDZON)
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

Wellness is everywhere! Every reader probably knows someone engaged in some kind of wellness activity. It’s a thing not only in Israel but across the globe.

Let’s start with a simple definition: Wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.

It is estimated that the worldwide wellness industry is now worth more than $4 trillion, encompassing activities that promote physical and mental well-being: from yoga to healthy eating, personal care and beauty, nutrition and weight-loss, meditation, spa retreats, workplace wellness and wellness tourism.

Recognizing the potential, Vert Dead Sea became Israel’s first hotel to host a three-day Wellness Festival in mid-June.

The event was a great success and attracted a whole range of participants – young and older – including wellness freaks at one end of the scale to first-timers (including yours truly) wanting to find out what all the fuss is about.

Sharon Alon, CEO of Africa Israel Hotels, notes that Vert means green in French, and the name was chosen with the aim of creating a brand that seeks sustainability – particularly relevant in the setting of the spectacular Dead Sea.

 Mosh Ben-Ari and his band entertain the crowd at the Vert Dead Sea hotel. (credit: HAGAI SHALOM/NIR DAVIDZON) Mosh Ben-Ari and his band entertain the crowd at the Vert Dead Sea hotel. (credit: HAGAI SHALOM/NIR DAVIDZON)

“The Vert Wellness Festival is based on a combination of fitness, diet and other soul-enriching treats.”

Sharon Alon

“The Vert Wellness Festival is based on a combination of fitness, diet and other soul-enriching treats,” Alon says. “We hope to turn this into a regular event in the years to come and welcome the large turnout. We are already planning more events in the coming months that combine wellness with a vacation.”

Wellness activities

The challenge of the organizers and those leading the 50-or-so sessions and workshops was to appeal to all the different levels of participants simultaneously in a single one-hour session. Because the teachers included some of the best in Israel, all the participants came away with something, and an enjoyable weekend was had by all, although some of the newcomers also came away with some stiff muscles.

Yoga, probably the best-known wellness activity, seeks a perfect harmony between the mind and body, and yoga sessions naturally featured prominently at the festival. Novices discovered muscles they didn’t even know they had, and were in awe of the experienced practitioners – some of them veterans of Indian ashram retreats – and their ability to contort their bodies with relative ease and grace.

The secret is to synchronize body movements with correct breathing techniques. The meditation bit, I guess, takes a bit more time to perfect.

Pilates is another popular wellness activity. Similar to yoga, Pilates concentrates on posture, balance and flexibility, but after adopting a position you then challenge your core by moving your arms or legs.

We tried Hydro Pilates (pool Pilates), which took place in the spa pool of Dead Sea water, ideal as the water resists the body movement making it more challenging.

A variety of workshops focused on healthy living, diets and cleansing. Here are five suggestions to get you going: Start the day with fruit, either raw or mixed in a blender with green leaves, such as mint or celery leaves; adopt a healthy diet gradually – don’t go from eight coffees a day to zero overnight; don’t eat anything in the three hours before you go to sleep; never finish a meal with fruit; and above all, take everything gradually and in moderation.

After the sessions, it was time to chill with some great music on the shore of the Dead Sea with Teapacks (Tipex) and Mosh Ben-Ari headlining on consecutive nights.

And then there is the Dead Sea itself: it may be shrinking, but it’s still spectacular, and a quick float was the perfect way to unwind between yoga and the other sessions.

Asaf Ben-Dov, VP of Marketing Africa Israel Hotels, is confident the Wellness Festival will be the first of many.

“It’s a great privilege to be at the forefront in the industry, and Vert is putting wellness center stage,” Ben-Dov says. “We are pleased by the large turnout of people enjoying the many and varied events. See you next year!” ■

The author and his wife were guests at the Wellness Festival.