The Judean Desert
The Judean Desert is a geological concavity, The Fault Cliff was supposed to be his continuation but the Great Rift Valley broke the view and created a very sharp fault, the Stair Fault.
The Judean Desert is made of Limestone, a very hard surface that absorbs plenty of water. The Judean desert concavity was filled with a younger layer of stone – chalk. The chalk is softer and water proof. The few rain falls in the Judean Desert do not penetrate the chalk, creating dangerous flood in the winter.
The Dead Sea
Under the calm Dead Sea lies a layer of salt 7 km deep, created in ancient geological periods where an older salty sea was located. This older sea was created probably 3 million years ago from the Thetys Ocean.
This deep layer of salt is a result of two processes:
- A high level of evaporation, which created thick layers of salt.
- The lowering of the Jordan Rift Valley as a result of the Great Rift Valley.
Masada is a famous location with a unique story. Its name is derived from the Hebrew word Mezuda, fortress. Masada was built as a fortress on the borderline of the Roman Empire, but previously was a Hasmonean fortress built by Alexander Yannay in the first century BC. Later, Herod, who controlled the country on behalf of the Romans, expanded the fortress for the Roman garrison, and also added winter castles and bath houses. Everything we see today in Masada is the work of Herod from 20 BC. The place was occupied by Roman soldiers until the year 66 AD.
In 66 AD, zealous religious Jewish sect by the name Sicarii decided to rebel against the Roman Empire. They started the war in Jerusalem but were also the first to leave it, and in 66 AD they took hold of Masada. Their group, 2,00 people in total, had many accomplishments in this rebellion, one of these was their decision to make Masada their settlement using the already existing resources built by Herod, such as 20 water pits for accumulating water which were priceless for their survival. They also used storage for food and sustenance built by the Romans before them. Finally, this group, the Sicarii, lives in Masada until 73 AD.
The tragedy of Masada is a well known story about heroism, or is it over-zeal? In 73 AD 960 people committed communal suicide in Masada. Unwilling to surrender to the Roman troops closing in on them, the Sicarii decided to commit suicide rather than to be captured by the Romans. Only 2 women and 5 children out of the entire community lived to tell the tale of Masada.
One of the most important sites for archeology in Israel is the Qumran. Not much to see on the ground itself, but the findings discovered in this area of the desert are a priceless and they are kept in the Israel Museum and The Rockefeller. This site is also popular among Christian travelers due to its connection to John the Baptist. The place is regarded by many Christians as the starting point of Christianity, but the most famous findings discovered here were the Dead Sea Scrolls, found almost completely corrupted by time in broken jars inside a cave.
A northern beach on the shore of the Dead Sea. This is the perfect place to float in the salty water and rub yourself with Dead Sea mud to soften your skin and cleanse your body.