Trekking in the Judean Desert

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‏The Judean desert is relatively a small desert, located in Israel between Jerusalem and Hebron to the west and the Dead Sea to the east. It’s a rain-shadow desert: The Judean hills on its west block the humid air that arrives from the Mediterranean Sea, and the decrease in elevation as you go east makes it drier and drier. The significant drop in Elevation, from a 1000 meters above sea level, to 425 meters below sea level, makes the landscape very steep, especially on the eastern side, the Fault Cliff. Around 30 deep canyons cut through this cliff forming a dramatic scenery.

This trek crosses the Judean Desert from the town of Arad to the lush oasis of Ein Gedi, and it is one of the best treks in Israel. This description is not for navigation, just to give the general idea of the route, while the navigation should be done by the assistance of a topographic map or with a guide.

Day 1: From Arad to The Tzfira pool

Starting at the hotel area in Arad, we begin with a wide-angle observation over the Desert Plateau, the milder area of the desert, where the slope is still not too steep. We descend to the Kidod dry river-bed and continue along it until it start getting steeper and we encounter some small dry falls which are easy to scramble down. This is the vicinity of the Kidod Cave, a surprisingly large karstic cave with a very small entrance. From the cave we head north towards the Bedouin-style resort of Kfar Hanokdim, where we can refill our water bottles (and also arrange to stay the night in a beautiful room or in a tent) and camp above the Tzfira pool.

Day 2: The Tze’elim canyon

This day is dedicated to the “Grand Canyon” of the Judean Desert. We’ll begin with visiting the Tzfira pool, a waterhole in the gorge above the Tze’elim dry fall, which fills up with water whenever there’s a flashflood in the canyon. The flashflood occurs when there’s a heavy rain falling on the desert. The clay-like soil does not enable much water to seep through it, so most of the rain water flows on the surface. The steepness allows the water gain speed and power and these create fierceful flashfloods, majestic and dangerous. We will choose if to walk above the gorge or inside it, as we continue to the campsite at the exit of the canyon. Walking through the gorge usually involves crossing deep water pools, and swimming with all the gear is unavoidable!

 

Day 3: The Mules’ Ascent, the Harduf and the Treasure Cave Viewpoints

This morning will find us ascending the Fault Cliff by the Mules’ Ascent, that was used to bring the equipment by the archaeological teem that excavated the Judean Desert caves in 1953. Today’s the day of the breathtaking views over the canyons of the desert, The Harduf and the Mishmar. We will see the opening to the Treasure Cave, in which hundreds of copper artifacts from Chalcolithic time (around 4000 B.C.) were discovered.

Day 4: The Arugot Stream and the Ein Gedi Oasis

On with the trail on the desert plateau, we will cross the Hever Canyon, in which we will sight the Bar Kochva Revolt refuge caves. In one of them a very interesting archive of legal documents was found. They belonged to Bavta, a refugee from Ein Gedi ancient village, who brought those with her when she seeked for shelter from the Romans during the second revolt of the Jews, 132-135 A.D.

We will conclude this amazing trek by descending via the Iseens’ Ascent to the lush Arugot stream, refreshing ourselves in the pools and waterfalls, a nice treat after four days in the desert.

A guided trek on this trail can be reserved at www.yoeloren.com

 

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