Judean Desert Attractions
Introduction: The Judean Desert is a desert, but not totally dry (between 60-150 mm of rain per year). The length of this desert is around 85 KM (55 miles), and the width of the desert is around 25 KM (15 miles). In the East it starts in the Dead Sea and end around Jerusalem in the West. The south border of the Judean Desert is the city of Arad.
1. The Good Samaritan Museum- The Good Samaritan Museum is a very unique museum in the world, which present the history of the promised land, with mosaics, which were collected from all the west bank and Gaza strip.
The compound of the museum was built in an area which contain remaining from 2nd temple time, Residential Cave, Water cistern, Baptistery, and Byzantine church. The floor of Byzantine church, was restored with around 1.7 million tessera stones.
The building itself is an old one from the Othman period (probably was a road motel) and divided to sections, which concern the Jewish, Samaritans and Christian history.
The Museum was opened in 2009, and become one of the Must sites to visit, when you travel from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea area.
Link to the museum website is: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/good-samaritan-museum/
2. Wadi Qelt (Perth stream)- In The biblical time, Prat stream (or Wadi Qelt) was a very significant path on the way from Jericho to Jerusalem.
It has a lot of water, very easy to defend, and fertile soil for agriculture. There is a trail in the Wadi which start in the east mountains closer to Jerusalem, and end near St George Monastery, but it pretty long and difficult.
The nice and easy way to visit the stream, is to visit Ein Mabua site. Ein Mabua is a Natural pool you can swim in it, which get it water from the spring of En Mabua. After reaching to the pool (5 minutes' walk), you can take a short walk, round trip, on the Perth Stream, to see the nearest waterfalls, see the plants in the area, and enjoy from the wonderful landscape of the gorge.
Link to Perth stream website (It's in Hebrew, but you can translate it):
3. St. George Monastery (Observation)- On the eastern side of Perth Stream (near Jericho), on the Slope of the gorge, there is a beautiful monastery named St. George.
Part of this monastery was built in the 4th Century by 5 monks from the Syrian church, on the 5th century came a priest name John and change the monastery from Laura to Convinion. In the 6th Century came a priest name George, and enlarge the Monastery (the Monastery is on his name).
The monastery was destroyed by the Persians, which invaded to Israel in 614AD and rebuilt in the Crusader period (Not by the Catholic- by the Greek Orthodox church), and was destroy again by the Muslims, and rebuilt again at the 19nd century.
Part of the Monastery is carved in the rock- which turn him to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Israel.
Above the Monastery you can see a cave which according to traditional believe, this is Kerith Ravine, and this is the cave that Elijah hide after he ran away from Ahab, as it written in the bible Kings 1 17:2-6:"Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan...".
From the observation you can see the Perth stream, and, you can see the aqueduct which King Herods Built in order to transfer water to his Palace which was located above Jericho. Today, around 8-10 monks are living in the Monastery.
4. Nabi Musa- MAQAM (A grave or mark of a Grave in Arabic) NABI (The prophet in Arabic) MUSA (Moses in Arabic), is a mosque which the Muslim believe that Moses is buried. Although it is written in the bible in Deuteronomy 34:6 "He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is", and Beth Peor is probably in the East side of the Jordan river, they base their assumption on two things:
4.1. Till today we don't sure where is Biblical Peor.
4.2. In the Talmud (a Jewish book which was written in the 5th century- 200 years before the Islam was founding), it is written that Angels took Moses from the place he was buried to the promised land. The Jews believe he was Buried in the grave of Abraham in Hebron, The Muslims adopted this story, but believe that the Angels buried him in Nabi Musa.
The one that decided this is the place that Moses was buried, was Salah- A Din- The Muslim conqueror from the 12th century which occupied part the country from the Crusaders. 80 years later, in 1269, the Mameluke sultan Baibars built a small shrine here, as part of a general policy he adopted after conquering towns and rural areas. The shrines were mostly dedicated to biblical prophets and the companions of Mohammed.
The Muslim Historian Ibn Battuta, wrote in his memories in 1355, that this place is very sacred also to Jews (beside that we don't have any other evidence to that).
Over the late medieval period, hostels for travelers were built on adjacent to the shrine, and the hospice in its present form was completed in the decade between 1470 and 1480.
Around the Mosque, you can see a lot of graves of people that wished to be buried near the grave of Moses.
Very nice and interesting place to visit.
5. Tel Arad- Tel Arad is biblical city which is mentioned in the bible in several places, such as:
5.1. "When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them" (Numbers 21:1).
5.2. "These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan...the king of Arad"(Joshua 12:1-14).
5.3. The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms, with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
In addition to that Arad is mentioned also in list which was made by Shishak- the Egyptian king which occupied Israel in 925BC (at the period of the son of king Solomon -Rehavam).
In this site, we can find actually to main spots:
5.4. The Canaanite City- Canaanite Arad was a planned city from the beginning of the Canaanite urbanization period. It is surrounded by a wall and is divided into public buildings and residential areas. The rich findings discovered in the excavations demonstrate a range of economic resources such as agriculture, non-irrigated farming, grazing, art and trade. Arad was an urban center for the inhabitants of the region.
5.5. The Fortress from the 1st Temple time- The fortress presently on the site is a fortified building (50X50 m.), and it was a link in the series of fortifications of the Judean Kingdom. We can see there a very big and unique water system, and a worship small temple with an altar nearby, for Animal sacrifice.
The link to Arad website is:https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/tel-arad-national-park/
6. Horvat Anim - Horvat Anim is the name of a Village, South Hebron Hills, where there are the remains of a settlement from the biblical and Talmudic periods.
Horvat Anim is mentioned in the bible: "In the hill country: Shamir, Jattir, Sokoh, Dannah, Kiriath Sannah (that is, Debir), Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim" (Joshua 15:48-50).
The Historian Eusebius from the 4th century, describe Anim as "a big Jewish Village, and nearby there is another Christian Village, which is smaller, with the same name".
The area that this village located, is a forest which is full with Agricultural facilities from the biblical time. Among other things, the following facilities were found on the site: Wine press, Olive Press, and water cistern.
In the village itself there are some impressive remains such as:
6.1. Synagogue- A synagogue from the Talmudic period (the 3rd century) was excavated in the village. The synagogue existed until the 7th century. The entrance to the synagogue is to the east. In the front are columns on square sills with headings. The floor is made of mosaic, with geometric shapes.
6.2. About 50 cave -shaped hewn basements were found on the site. Only a few of the buildings' walls are visible on the surface. In some of the doorways of the caves, are built with a luxurious lintel, which are decorate with rosettes.
6.3. Water cisterns and hidden caves, which describe the fear, that the Jewish settlers felt, in that period.
It's a very interesting site, mainly to people who interest in the biblical and Byzantine periods.