Judean Desert in Holy Land

Judean Desert on the map  is a narrow flap stretching along the western coast of the Dead Sea. On the view from a very great height, it resembles a huge half-erased page of an ancient manuscript, once written by a non-human hand. In this small and now truly desert kingdom of sand and stone, a number of events happened once. We read about them from the Bible, from the writings of ancient authors and from the lives of the saints. And too many of these events took place with the direct participation of God.

Judean Desert – Book of sand and stone.

Not without reason this place served and serves people for spiritual searches, prayers and pilgrimages to the ancient shrines and resting places of those who lived here, speaking with God.

The surviving sights of the Judean desert are like surviving fragments of a manuscript text written by the hand of the Creator. Everything unimportant for eternal life has been erased. Destroyed by Sodom and Gomorrah, it stood around here. In today’s Jericho, there are just over 20 thousand Palestinians. Old Jericho, with its fallen walls, the oldest synagogue, the remains of palaces and baths, and Elisha’s Spring are also here.

The secrets of Qumran have not yet been solved, and the Qumran scrolls are found in the local caves.

Deep in the sands lie the bones of the people of Canaan and the people of Joshua, the soldiers of Herod the Great – and the Roman legionaries. The wars have passed, slightly changing the eternal appearance of this place.

Judean Desert has preserved a posthumous memory. The relics and tombs are about those who fought and feasted, and about those who prayed.

These stone’s honeycombs were used as a home for those who wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle. And a refuge for those who were persecuted by the powerful of the world: David fled here from Saul. Kings do not like those who are greater than them. Here, the prophet Elisha was hiding from the wrath of Ahab

Monasteries of the Judean Desert: memory of holiness.

Monasteries of the Judean Desert: the memory of holiness.
Pilgrims always try to visit these ancient monasteries, although the road to them is difficult, and the buildings themselves do not strike the eye with amazing architectural delights and brilliant decoration. There is something more important than external brilliance. Each of them represents the triumph of human faith over merciless time.

It was difficult to build, were destroyed by the Gentiles, experienced periods of desolation – and survived. After all, they were founded by people whose faith was stronger than stone.

Monasteries of Chariton the Confessor.

Monasteries of Chariton the Confessor – just like that, in the plural. For the monastic settlement certainly appears in the place where the Chariton the Confessor came.

In the native city Iconium, he suffered persecution of Christians. He was beaten so that the body “became a complete ulcer.” He spent about a year in prison. And having received freedom, Chariton the Confessor did not deny such a dangerous faith.

On the contrary, he went to the Holy Land as a pilgrim. Not far from Jerusalem, Chariton fell into the hands of robbers. They led the captive into a cave, where they miraculously died from the poison of a snake. And Chariton stayed in the cave. This was the first building of the first monastery in the Judean Desert, the Faran Lavra.

Nowadays only one monk lives in this place, who, curiously, is called Chariton. Striving for solitude, Chariton the Confessor left the Pharan monastery. Now his path lay on Mount Quarantal, known as the Forty-Day, or Mount of the Temptations. Here Satan demanded miracles from Christ and tempted him with world domination — in order to receive in reply: “Get away from me, Satan.” Chariton founded the Monastery of Temptation here. The monastery is now active, but only one Greek monk lives here.

In the cave, where Jesus held a forty-day fast, a chapel was established named the Souka and later known as the Old Lavra. Souka Monastery, now destroyed, became the last abode laid by Chariton. Here is the largest cave in Israel. Here, according to legend, Chariton the Confessor himself lived. And long before him, David hid from Saul.

Monastery of St. Theodosius.

The monastery of Theodosius the Great was miraculously founded in the 476 year. Theodosius did not think about life in the community at all. He intended to become a hermit. The Judean desert seemed to him the best refuge from the world. But God judged differently and led him to the cave, where the Three Wise Men stayed on the way back. Theodosius was not sure that he should live here. And he continued on his way, hoping that the Lord would give him a sign. Once, when he was again near an abandoned cave, an unlit lamp flashed in his hand.

Soon Theodosius was found here by his disciples, and he had to take responsibility for the self-created monastic settlement. Theodosius was buried in his cave. Here are the graves of his mother and sister. And also Sophia, the mother of another righteous man, Sabbas the Sanctified. Here lies the monk John Moschus, author of “The spiritual meadows”.

Monastery of Mar Saba.

Great Lavra of St. Saba is the largest monastery in the Judean desert, founded by this holy ascetic in 484. Now the monastery looks like a small town. There are 9 churches, 6 chapels, 5 sketes and many burials of famous saints. But in the most honorable place, in the tomb of St. Sava – the relics of nameless monks are kept. Killed during the raids of the Persians in 614. Now there are 15 monks living here. Lavra is located away from the tourist routes, but you can get here on your own – by renting a car or taking a taxi.

Monastery of St. George of Choziba

St. George Monastery in Wadi Qelt was founded at the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century by Saint John of Egypt.

His future successor George in his youth sought to become a hermit. He began to prepare for this at the cloister in Choziba, serving there as an assistant gardener. But his righteousness was such that a modest nun soon became famous as a miracle worker and deserved respect for the entire brethren of the monastery. In order not to fall into pride, George disappeared from here for the whole 20 years, which he spent in the Kalamon Monastery together with his brother Heraclius. But after the death of his brother, he returned to remain forever the spiritual father in Choziba. Even the elder-hermits came to him for a blessing, although George did not become the official abbot of the monastery. And in general did not occupy posts in it. This amazing “three-story” monastery, standing on a rocky cornice, on the edge of a cliff, always attracts pilgrims and tourists.

Life here was once very difficult. The cells were cut in the rock. The sun was so hot the stones that the drinking water almost boiled. The Judean desert is created to test the will of the ascetics! On the conditional upper tier is the cave church of the prophet Elijah. In this cave, he lived for three and a half years, with full support of the raven who carried food to him. In these places, Joachim, the future father of the Virgin Mary, prayed for God for the child. The relics of John, George and John of Romania are kept in reverence. Here lives one monk, he is the abbot of the monastery, and several Arab workers.

Greek Orthodox monastery St Gerasimos.

The St Gerasimos monastery also originated at the site of the cave where the Holy Family stopped while fleeing from King Herod. The symbol of the monastery is the lion tamed by St Gerasimos. Gerasimos affectionately subdued a wild beast, met in the sands, curing a wound on his paw. A lion with a completely canine devotion followed him and served him for many years. The statute given by Gerasimos is very strict! Five days a week, the monks ate bread, dates, and water. Only on Saturday and Sunday were boiled food and wine allowed during communion.

The property of the monk was his clothes, bedding and dishes for water. The novice monks bore many responsibilities for the maintenance of the monastery and settled separately from the old-timers, if they looked too young – so as not to lead those into temptation. Only those who, in the opinion of the abbot, grew spiritually, were allowed to lead a hermit life. Nowadays, the monastery is very popular with tourists and pilgrims. For pilgrims there is a hotel.

Official website of  monastery St Gerasimos – www.iordanitis.com

Masada fortress.

Masada fortress in Israel – located in the Judean Desert not far from the shores of the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Here there was a great tragedy of antiquity. Here, according to legend, 960 people committed suicide, but did not surrender, and did not become slaves of the Romans.

Masada – the greatest drama of all mankind, which occurred two thousand years ago and to this day it worries the minds and hearts of people.

The history of Masada was told by Joseph Flavius ​​at the dawn of Christianity, at a difficult time for the Jews. She excited the consciousness of both believers and non-believers.

Judean Desert – Useful Information

Pilgrim Note:

The pilgrim trip is a special journey based on acquaintance with the holy places, the life of holy saints, the history of monasteries visited and obligatory participation in church services, and, if desired, in the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. Therefore, every pilgrim who is going to take part in a pilgrim trip must remember that pilgrim trips involve certain difficulties, and all their participants impose certain duties on themselves:

  • Listen and fulfill the requirements of a team leader.
  • Get a blessing for the trip.
  • When visiting monasteries, pilgrims should be dressed in decent clothing and have a pectoral cross (for women, be sure to have a long skirt and scarf).
  • For bathing in the holy sources need a cotton shirt.
  • For the intake of water in the holy springs to have a bottle of bottles.
  • During the pilgrim trip to exclude the use of decorative cosmetics.
  • In monasteries do not ask questions of monastics concerning their personal lives.
  • Have a personal first-aid kit with you.
  • Arrive at the gathering place of the group at the strictly specified time.
  • If you need to leave, you must inform the team leader.

Travelers note.

  • For those who are boring sightseeing buses and taxis, and for those who want to bring impressive photos and videos from the trip, there are other opportunities to visit the Judean desert.
  • Hardy lovers of long walks can travel on foot. To do this, you will have to hire a local guide or choose such a tour with a guide, so that you probably will not get lost and see the desired places.
  • You can order a tour with riding a camel or donkey in the Judean desert – to join the Bedouin culture.
  • Excursions in the Judean desert by jeeps, usually with a guide who knows the way to all the sights, are very popular. If you have the opportunity to hire an all-wheel drive off-road jeep and the ability to navigate the terrain, you can take an independent journey at your own pace.