Visit the Judean Desert
I will accompany you to visit the Judean Desert, one of the two deserts of Israel. We can start with the City of Jericho, which is not far from the northern shore of the Dead Sea, it is located on the administrative territory of the Palestinian Authority.
It is one of the oldest cities in the world, built more than 9000 years before Christ. In Jericho, several historical sites are available to us: We can start the visit with Hisham Palace, one of the oldest royal palaces dating back to the first Muslim dynasty of the Umayyad Empire.
We can walk past the famous Sycamore of Zacchaeus and talk about the history reported in the gospels.
From the Funicular we can access the Mount of Temptation and visit the Greek-Orthodox monastery built more than 300 meters high above the city.
Then we will go to the Dead Sea, together we will discover this wonder of nature, the lowest and saltiest lake in the world located in a geological fault and at -417 meters below sea level.
You can take a bath in salt water and float on this lake which is also known for its rich minerals and therapeutic virtues.
On the way we can visit Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest scrolls written by Jews in Judea, were written and preserved for over 2000 years in the 1st century AD.
Then we will head towards the Ein Gedi Falls, an extraordinary oasis in the middle of the desert, with a multitude of extraordinary fauna and flora.
We will go further south and by cable car or on foot we will climb the fortress of Masada, former palace of King Herod the Great and last Jewish stronghold after the fall of Jerusalem, known to have had a tragic end during the great Jewish revolt against the Romans at the end of the 1st century AD.
The dead sea
The lowest place in the world
The Dead Sea is a salt water lake with an area of about 800 kilometres located in a geological fault called the Syrian-African fault. It is located at -417 meters below sea level.
The lake water contains between 33 and 34% salt, while the Mediterranean Sea contains only 3 to 4%!
As a result, the Dead Sea contains no animal or plant life. To discover the Dead Sea is to be amazed by this miracle of nature.
This lunar setting and the reflection of the sea giving it a lead lake effect, the strong heat and the smell of sulphur make this place a magnificent landscape.
Why do we float on the Dead Sea?
Due to the excess salt deposited on the sea floor, a physical phenomenon causes us to float. It is also very difficult to swim there, the density due to the high salt content exerts an Archimedes' push which makes each movement more and more difficult.
The water was once coming mainly by the Jordan River, which supplies it naturally with one billion and ⅖ billion and 200 million m3 of water per year. Since the 1960s, a dam south of Lake Galilee has critically slowed down the water flow.
Nowadays it receives only 200 million m3 of water per year, which means that it is getting lower by one and a half metres per year and if nothing is done, it could disappear in a century and its salt content continues to increase.
Why is the Dead Sea salty?
To know why the Dead Sea is so rich in salt, we must go back to the time of the creation of our planet. More than 4 billion years ago, when the Earth was formed, volcanoes were numerous and active.
For more than 100 million years, eruptions of these volcanoes have released significant amounts of steam and gases.
The planet then cooled down, the steam began to fall back as rain.
The acid rain on the ground was brought into contact with the various rocks that were rich in mineral salts, including sodium.
The water continued to run off and with erosion caused by rain, large amounts of sodium and sodium chloride ended up in the seas.
In the seas, the salt content is 3 to 4%. But in the Dead Sea there are 33 or even 34%, or 300 g per litre of water.
This is due to the fact that the Dead Sea is a closed lake! It does not communicate with any other lake or sea.
Qumran, in the heart of the Judean Desert
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Qumran is a historic site dating back to the 1st century AD. A Jewish sect resided there, called the "Essenes", composed of Jews from Jerusalem, who decided to flee the Holy City and settle in the Judean Desert.
Their days were structured around immersions in water, the writing of ancient scriptures and community meals.
Their written testimonies on parchment manuscripts have been preserved for more than 2000 years in jars stored in caves not far from the site and were discovered in the middle of the 20th century almost intact, thanks to the region's dry temperature.
These are the oldest Jewish manuscripts of the Old Testament (the Torah) found to date.
Jeremie, the Sababa Tours private tour guide will accompany you to the heart of the desert and bring you his knowledge about Qumran.
Ein gedi, the desert oasis
A miracle of nature
Ein Gedi is an oasis in the middle of the desert, on several levels it is possible to take a bath in fresh spring water, while contemplating the dead sea on the horizon.
Rich in fauna and flora, we will see ibexes on the rocks they live on the site.
Ein gedi is also mentioned in the Old Testament as one of the places where King David hid from King Saul during the period when he was persecuted by him, before his coronation as King of Israel.
Masada, the highest point to observe the Dead Sea
Herod's former Palace
Masada is a mountain that lies at an altitude of 400 metres above the Dead Sea. It's a tray.
King Herod the Great decided to build his winter palace on this Mountain at the end of the 1st century BC.
Shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70, Jewish militias called the Sicaires and Zealots seized the fortress and thus defied Roman forces.
It will only be in the year 73 that Rome will decide to completely eradicate the Jewish revolt and decide to besiege Masada.
The end of the infamous story is known as one of the most tragic ends, recalled by the Judeo-Roman writer known as Flavius Joseph.