Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Judean Desert

Today we journeyed through the Judean dessert region on the way to Masada.
The Judean Desert is bordered by the mountains of Judea to the west and by the Dead Sea to the east.  It is considered to be a fairly small desert, measuring only 1500 square kilometers.
 The landscape was so diverse just within an hour's drive of Jerusalem.
The area is sparsely populated, but animals were plentiful.   We passed many areas with sheep...
and goats. 
We saw lots of Addax - a member of the antelope family. 
The desert is known for its rugged landscape, which has provided a refuge and 
hiding place for rebels and zealots throughout history. 
 It also provides solitude and isolation to the many Bedouins who live here. 
The Bedouin camps are set up as temporary residences which support their nomadic lifestyle.   Almost 50% of the Bedouins today have moved into settlements set up by the Israeli government in order to obtain public services and schooling.  The remaining 50% live in unrecognized settlements in the Negev or Judean deserts, but can also be found spread out all over Israel. 
Many of the Bedouins work as sheep/goat herders or grow field crops.   As a whole, this group is on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in Israel and they are known for their low education rate, crime, drug abuse and poverty.  However, they are ingenious in working with tourists!  
Our group stopped by the side of the road to visit with a Bedouin who had 'seats' on his camel for sale.  For a small 'donation' we could sit on a camel.  For a larger donation, the camel would stand up!    Mother posed for a picture with the Bedouin man.
Since it was a rare opportunity, I opted to pay the small donation to SIT on the camel!!  :)  It would have been a better picture if he had posed on the desert side of the road!!    
 
We drove past breathtaking views which were constantly changing. Mountains,
 cliffs and chalk hills stand along plateaus, riverbeds and deep canyons.   
The width and breadth of the desert is crossed by several rivers
 that have created canyons up to 500 meters deep.  
Some of these rivers have water all year round creating small oases in the desert.  
As we climbed higher, the skies and expansive terrains were amazing!  
Around every corner, there were stunning views!
 The water was such a bright turquoise, especially
when contrasted with the white salt and sand.
This was one of the checkpoints where we stopped for an inspection.  
The station was an old RV with a tent protecting them from the intense sunlight.  
A security guard stands by the checkpoint.  
The ever-changing landscapes were just incredible.
Here's another oasis in the desert on the way up to Masada.  
We were amazed to see such lush palm trees right in the middle of nowhere!  
The plateaus were impressive...
and the multitude of layers and colors were awesome.  
Our first view of the dead sea with Jordan on the other side.  
Outside of Masada 
The landscape on our drive was just breath-taking and we enjoyed
 our ride up to visit Masada, Qumran and the Dead Sea. 

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