January 25th 2015
The Judean Desert extends to the east and south of Jerusalem, and it includes the wonders of the Dead Sea region. Destinations in this area are rich in archeology, nature and Biblical history. Here are our choices for the most unskippable sites to visit in the region.
The World’s Most Famous Mountain Fortress
There’s a good reason why Masada is on nearly every first-timer’s Israel itinerary. The remains of the palace of King Herod, and the story of what happened to the Jews who took refuge on Masada during the time of the Roman invasion, inspire all. See how these brave fighters lived, how they survived for so long on the top of a mountain without access to supplies and what the conquering Roman troops discovered when they finally scaled Masada. The museum at the foot of the mountain combines artifacts and theater to tell the story of the Judeans’ last night on Masada. Although there is the “snake path” that you can, with great effort, complete on foot, most people opt for a ride in the cable car that carries visitors to the top of the mesa.
Where King David Fled from King Saul
Ein Gedi is paradise in the midst of the Judean desert. Stunning natural waterfalls and wild ibex and hyrax dot the landscape. Hike to the ancient synagogue, dip in a cool, clear pool of water and revel in the gratifying natural beauty of Ein Gedi.
Desert Life in the Second Temple Period
The world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran in 1947. However, the history of the area goes back 2,000 years to the time of the Second Holy Temple. A visit to Qumran will open your eyes to the world of the unfamiliar Jewish sect called the Essenes who lived here between 150 BCE and 70 CE.
The Lowest Point on Earth
More than 1300 feet below sea level lies the famous Dead Sea. The iconic blackmud on its shores is famous for its healing minerals. What tourist can resist the fun of slathering Dead Sea mud all over and taking a photo? Another photo op afforded here is you, floating on the world’s saltiest body of water, reading a newspaper. The buoyancy of the Dead Sea makes it possible for everyone to float, and the water’s salt and minerals are so powerfully concentrated that a dip in the Dead Sea is often prescribed as treatment for various skin ailments. The Dead Sea area is replete with hotels at every level of luxury, each offering its own array of spa treatments.
The climate in the Judean desert can be exceedingly hot, so it’s important to take the weather into account as you plan your visit to any of these not-to-be-missed spots.