Middle East - Judean desert, from Dead Sea to Jerusalem
68 images Created 16 Dec 2008
The incredible landscape of the Judean is home to astonishing hidden monasteries built into the rocks and discovering beautiful natural springs. Near the Southern end of the Dead Sea, not far from kibbutz farming on the southern border of the Judean Desert, Through the winding wadi Sodom and hidden canyons, a rough track leads up to the top of Mount Sodom, the highest peak, made of salt crystals with impressive shapes, very unique and seen only in extremely arid areas. In Biblical times, God resolved to strike down the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual promiscuity. Along the Dead Sea, the Ein Gedi Natural Reserve is a vibrant oasis bursting with wildlife, rich vegetation, and calm, clear streams and waterfalls. The Ein Gedi oasis has a long history because the young David fled here to escape king Saul as, later, Simon Bar Kokhba, leader of the second Jewish revolt (132--135 A.D.) against the Roman empire. Not far, on the top of an isolated rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada, one of Israel's must-see sites. The "fortress," in Hebrew, was built by king Herod the Great as a palace and fortress. Later, during the Great Revolt of the Jews against Rome, a group of Jewish rebels settled in the fort. After the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.), the Romans continued to put down the revolt and laid siege to Masada. With the Roman army advancing, the Jews of Masada elected to suicide rather than surrender. According to Josephus, a Romano-Jewish historian of the first century, the siege ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the rebels, and their families. Another testimony of Jewish history is the ancient settlement of Qumran, revealing a wealth of information about the ancient Essenes Jews who lived here. In the hidden caves around 1947, a young Bedouin shepherd found the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical books ever discovered, on display at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. From here, a rough track off the beaten path of the Judean desert continues to Nabi Musa, a holy site for Muslims, considered to be the burial site of Moses. The lonely Mar Saba monastery is on the dramatic cliff of a Judean desert canyon, Almost a secret because of the relative difficulty in arriving at the site. 'The Great Lavra of St. Sabbas the Sanctified' was founded over 1500 years ago after its founding saint. It is one of the oldest inhabited monasteries and one of the most beautiful in the world. Around twenty Greek Orthodox monks meditate in the surrounding rock caves of this awe-inspiring structure. From here, through the incredible desert landscape, the track leads to the road and the Herodion, an artificial flat mountain, one of the world's finest examples of preserved Roman architecture. King Herod the Great built it as a fortress and summer palace.