The Dead Sea region is in Jerusalem’s backyard. Within a half hour of passing out of Jerusalem and into the Judean Desert we have descended 1200 meters (4,000′) to the lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea. The Sea is fed by the lower Jordan River and it was not far from here that the Children of Israel crossed the dry river bed into the Holy Land.
We experience the sudden transition from green Jerusalem to the Judean Desert, the smallest desert in the world. Due to its quiet and proximity to the Holy City, it became, during Byzantine times a popular place for monks to live out one of the ideals of Christian life. Today in some of those places the largest Jewish town in Judea, Maaleh Adumim, continues to expand, a bedroom community of Jerusalem, whose industrial area was home to a Soda Stream factory where both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israelis were employed side by side.
As we descend further the trees become more sparse. Camels, goats and sheep can be spotted by the observant on the ridge lines above the highway and small Bedouin shanty towns appear as well. When we gaze upon the still-life scenes at the Bedouin encampments we should reflect that this is as close as we can come to understanding the life-style of our Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs who lived here close to 4,000 years ago.