Our in-house photographer, Aviram Valdman, took his camera to the desert near Jerusalem and Jericho, and found a wondrous world of the spirit.
“The crests of the hill-tops in the valley below the palace were just discernible in the light of the false dawn, although their bases, extending to the abyss, were still plunged in darkness. A light mist floated in the air; presently it lifted, and the shores of the Dead Sea became visible. The sun, rising behind Machaerus, spread a rosy flush over the sky, lighting up the stony shores, the hills, and the desert, and illuming the distant mountains of Judea, rugged and grey in the early dawn.”
For not just centuries but millennia, the Judean Desert has captured the hearts of mystics, artists, zealots and simple travelers. Flaubert, whose notoriously decadent visit to Egypt included a more pious stopover in the Holy Land, was also once awed by the Judean Desert, which inspired the above description from his story, Herodias.
Today tourists, pilgrims, priests, historians and archeologists—and regular Israelis too—head to the desert, where under a blank blue or black sky the wind seems swept from a distant past. But the ancient Roman aqueducts, the monastery of Mar Saba (still clinging to a cliffside cloistering Greek monks 1,500 years later) and the waters of the River Jordan aren’t artifacts of a dead history, but are still part of people’s lives.
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Photos: The Tower/Aviram Valdman