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The Judean Desert, Palestine

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The Judaean Desert

The Judaean Desert is captivating, pretty empty, very still and quiet.

It exists in the rain-shadow created by the heights around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which reach above 880m or 2,700ft, preventing incoming rainfall from the west from falling on the desert east of Jerusalem.

To understand the heart of Islam in particular, but also Christianity and Judaism, it's necessary to go to the desert and to be still, to listen to the awe-inspiring silence.

There are a few places where this has been done for millennia. Two places featured here are Nabi Musa, south of Jericho aand reputedly the tomb of Moses, and Mar Saba, an old Greek Orthodox monastery east of Bethlehem, where the earliest Christian hermits lived in caves. There are remarkable views from the top of the Herodeon and from Ubeidiya near Bethlehem too, from which many of these desert shots were taken.

Apart from the odd Israeli settlement (totally dependent on oil-fuelled water-pumping and motor commuting) the only people who inhabit the desert are the Bedouin, some of whom are still semi-nomadic and many of whom are settled, in areas such as the landscape south and east of Bethlehem.

Until the British drew borders across this area around 1920, the Bedouin could range far and wide, but nowadays the bristly borders separating Israel/Palestine from Jordan and Saudi Arabia prevent this. Hardly anyone cares about this except the Bedouin, whose ancient clans stretch across these borders. The Bedouin are the lowest in the apartheid pile in this land - many of their villages are officially unrecognised, and the unsettled ones aren't even citizens of the country.

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© Copyright Palden Jenkins 2011. All text and photographs on this website are copyright Palden Jenkins.
You may not use these pictures in print or on websites without permission of the author.
The book's website is at  www.palden.co.uk/pop

 
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