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Judean Desert

Dead Sea

Measuring 309 square miles, the mineralrich Dead Sea and nearby springs are known for their curative qualities. Its waters are 35% salt, ten times saltier than the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the Judean desert at 248.5 miles below sea level, the climate and atmosphere are in complete contrast to hilly Jerusalem just 9 miles away.

The sharp smell emanating from sulfur deposits close by reminds one of the destruction of nearby Sodom and Gomorah, when “G-d rained down…sulfur and fire.” (Genesis 19)

Ein Gedi

The green lushness of the Ein Gedi oasis provides a vivid contrast to the surrounding miles of sandcolored desert rock. The stunning nature reserve in Ein Gedi contains several pools and waterfalls. Wildlife includes the ibex (wild goat), badger, and small, furry hyrax.

When David was fleeing from King Saul, he arrived in Ein Gedi. King Saul’s pursuit of David—including some high drama played out in a cave, as well as Saul’s and David’s subsequent reunion—is described in the Bible in I Samuel. Ein Gedi’s beauty is described by King David in Psalm 104 and referenced by King Solomon in Song of Songs: “My beloved is to me as a cluster of henna in the vineyards of Ein Gedi.”

Masada

One and a quarter miles west of the Dead Sea, rising 1443 feet above sea level, is Masada. With its wide flat summit, it was the perfect place for military defenses. The first fortifications built on Masada were constructed by the Hasmoneans in 42 CE.

Twenty years later, Herod added a wall, water storage cisterns, and a beautiful palace. Masada is famous for being one of the last Jewish strongholds after the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE. Numerous archeological finds confirm the story of the “Zealots” and their bravery as described by Josephus. Signs of Jewish religious life on the mountain include a mikveh (ritual pool) and a synagogue built so the congregation faced Jerusalem.