The hills of the Judean Desert

A view of the sandy hills of the Judean Desert on a cloudless day. These hills slowly change shape over time as strong winds change the landscape.

The Judean Desert with clouds

Here's another view of the expansive Judean Desert, this time with clouds. With no trees to block the sun, these clouds offer desert dwellers some brief periods of shade to help cool the scortching hot days.

The gate of Masada

A popular tourist spot, Masada is the ruins of a fortress that was originally captured by Herod the Great during the power struggle that ensued after his father's death. As king, Herod built two palaces in the vicinity of Masada, which protected both royal residences.

Byzantine chapel

The remains of a Byzantine chapel estimated to be from the 5th or 6th century were excavated at Masada.

Mar Saba Monastery

This monastery in the Judean Desert has been active since the 5th century. Mar Saba is home to the Sabait order of Greek Orthodox monks.


One of the palaces of Herod the Great, Herodium is also suspected to be the place where the biblical king was buried, although excavations have yet to find his actual tomb. It's a popular tourist site with educational guided tours.

The Monastery of Sts. John and George, in Wadi Qelt

This monastery has been in existence since the 5th century. About 200 years after it was constructed it was sacked by the Persians, and then the land changed hands several times. The monastery was reestablished in the 19th century.


No biblically minded excursion to the Middle East would be complete without a stop at Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. The "little town" has grown in the last 2,000 years, and offers a wide range of educational tours that will take you all over the storied city.


The caves of Qumran are where Bedouins discovered the first Dead Sea Scrolls in the 19th century, and where subsequent excavations yielded even more remnants of biblical and other texts.