Judaean Desert

The Judaean Desert or Judean Desert (Hebrew: מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה, lit.'Midbar Yehuda', both Desert of Judah or Judaean Desert; Arabic: صحراء يهودا, lit.'Sahraa' Yahuda') is a desert in the West Bank and Israel that lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. Under the name El-Bariyah, it has been nominated to the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites, particularly for its monastic ruins.

Judaean Desert
Location of Judaean Desert in the West Bank and Israel in red


The Judaean Desert stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El, and is marked by natural terraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. The Judaean Desert is crossed by numerous wadis from northeast to southeast[dubious ] and has many ravines, most of them deep, from 366 metres (1,201 ft) in the west to 183 metres (600 ft) in the east.[1] The Judaean Desert is an area with a special morphological structure along the east of the Judaean Mountains.

It is sometimes known as יְשִׁימוֹןYeshimon, meaning desert or wildland, or yet Wilderness of Judah or Wilderness of Judaea, among others.[2]

Location and climateEdit

The Judaean Desert lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. Major urban areas in the region include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Gush Etzion, Jericho and Hebron.[3]

Rainfall in the Judaea region varies from 400–500 millimetres (16–20 in) in the western hills, rising to 600 millimetres (24 in) around western Jerusalem (in central Judaea), falling back to 400 millimetres (16 in) in eastern Jerusalem and dropping to around 100 mm (3.9 in) in the eastern parts, due to a rainshadow effect. The climate ranges from Mediterranean in the west and desert climate in the east, with a strip of steppe climate in the middle.

Judaea Group AquiferEdit

A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem of an underground water reservoir beneath the Judaean Desert known as the Judaea Group Aquifer, found that the aquifer begins in the Judaean Mountains and flows in a northeasterly direction towards the Dead Sea with outflows at the Tsukim, Kane, Samar and Ein-Gedi springs. The rain-fed aquifer contains an average yearly volume of some 100 million m3 (3.5 billion cu ft) of water.[4]


Early Christian monasticismEdit

The Judaean Desert is connected with early forms of Christian monasticism. There are examples of Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers and a number of other influential Christian figures, some of which spent much of their lives in the desert as hermits or as members of monastic communities of the lavra or the cenobium type, or on the fringe of the desert in or near settled places such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem, but are still considered to belong to the same monastic environment. A short chronological list can include Chariton the Confessor (mid-3rd century – c. 350), Hilarion the Great (291–371), Euthymius the Great (377–473) and his associate Theoctistus of Palestine (died 451 or 467), Jerome (c. 342/47–420) with his associates Paula of Rome (347–404) and her daughter Eustochium (c. 368–419/20) as well as Tyrannius Rufinus (344/45–411), Melania the Elder (ca. 350–417?) and her granddaughter Melania the Younger (c. 383–439), Mary of Egypt (c. 344–421), Gerasimus of the Jordan (5th century), Theodosius the Cenobiarch (c. 423–529) and his contemporary Sabbas the Sanctified (439–532), at whose monastery John of Damascus (c. 675/76–749?) spent much of his life. Cyriacus the Anchorite (448-557) knew Euthymius and Gerasimus and led for many years the Souka of Hilarion. Cyril of Scythopolis (c. 525–559) wrote about the desert monasticism of his time, as did John Moschus (c. 550–619).


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Elisha Efrat (1988). Geography and Politics in Israel Since 1967. Routledge (Taylor & Fancis).
  2. ^ "Judean Wilderness". BiblePlaces.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  3. ^ Picturesque Israel I: Jerusalem, Judah, Ephraim[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "There's Water Under the Desert -- But It's Hardly Being Used".

  Hiking in the Judaean Desert travel guide from Wikivoyage

Coordinates: 31°42′N 35°18′E / 31.700°N 35.300°E / 31.700; 35.300