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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hills in the Judean desert.

Judea or Judæa (Hebrew: יהודה, Standard Yəhuda Tiberian Yəhûḏāh, "praised, celebrated"; Greek: Ιουδαία, Ioudaía; Latin: Iudaea) is the name given to the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel (Hebrew: ארץ ישראלEretz Yisrael), an area now divided between Israel and the West Bank (itself partly under Palestinian Authority administration and Israeli military rule).

The name Judea is a Greek and Roman adaptation of the name "Judah", which originally encompassed the territory of the Israelite tribe of that name and later of the ancient Kingdom of Judah. The area was the site of the Hasmonean Kingdom and the later Kingdom of Judah, a client kingdom of the Roman Empire. In modern times, Jordan renamed Judea and Samaria the West Bank. The name "Yehudah" may be used by Hebrew speakers to refer to a large southern section of Israel and the occupied territories[1] (disputed by Israel). The combined term Judea and Samaria, refers to land alternatively called the West Bank.


Location and historical boundaries

The Judean hills.

The original boundaries were "Bethsûr" (near Hebron), on the south; Beth-horon (today Beit 'Ur al Fawka on the West Bank), on the north; Latrun or Emaüs, on the west (22 kilometres west of Jerusalem); the Jordan River on the east. The classical historian Josephus used a more expanded definition, encompassing the lower half of what is now the West Bank in the north down to Beer Sheba in the south, and bordered on the east and west by the Mediterranean and the Jordan river. Coordinates: 31°41′56″N 35°18′23″E / 31.69889°N 35.30639°E / 31.69889; 35.30639



Abu Ehmad, an Arab farmer, ploughs his fields in Judea, 1913.

Judea is a mountainous and arid region, much of which is considered to be a desert. It varies greatly in height, rising to an altitude of 1,020 m (3,346 ft) in the south at Mount Hebron, 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Jerusalem, and descending to as much as 400 m (1,312 ft) below sea level in the east of the region. Major urban areas in the region include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gush Etzion (including Beitar Illit and Efrat), Jericho and Hebron.

Geographers divide Judea into several distinct regions: the Hebron hills, the Jerusalem saddle, the Bethel hills and the Judean desert east of Jerusalem, which descends in a series of steps to the Dead Sea. The hills are distinct for their anticline structure. In ancient times the hills were forested, and the Bible records agriculture and sheep farming being practiced in the area. Animals are still grazed today, with shepherds moving them between the low ground to the hilltops (which have more rainfall) as summer approaches, while the slopes are still layered with centuries-old stone terracing. The region dried out over the centuries and much of the ancient tree cover has since disappeared.


Human settlement in Judea stretches back to the Stone Age and the region is believed by paleoanthropologists to have been one of the routes through which Homo sapiens travelled out of Africa to colonise the rest of the world around 100,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence of human settlement dates back 11,000 years in the case of the city of Jericho, believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world. In historic times, the region was inhabited by a number of peoples, most famously the Israelites. Judea is central to much of the narrative of the Torah, with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob said to have been buried at Hebron in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Judea was ruled by the Kingdom of Judah, a client kingdom of Persia,[2] and later the Seleucid dynasty of Greece who were eventually expelled from the region by Judas Maccabeus. The Maccabean family established the Hasmonean dynasty of Kings who ruled in Judea for over a century. [3]

Roman conquest

Judea lost its independence to the Romans in the 1st century BCE, by becoming first a tributary kingdom, then a province, of the Roman Empire. The Romans had allied themselves to the Maccabees and interfered again in 63 BCE, following the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus stayed behind to make the area secure for Rome. Queen Alexandra Salome had recently died, and a civil war broke out between her sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. Pompeius restored Hyrcanus but political rule passed to the Herodian family, first as procuratores and later as client kings. In 6 CE, Judea came under direct Roman rule as the province of Iudaea. Eventually, the Jews rose against Roman rule in 66 CE in a revolt that was unsuccessful. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE and much of the population was killed or enslaved. [4]

Bar Kokhba revolt

The Jews rebelled again 70 years later under the leadership of Simon bar Kokhba and established the last Kingdom of Israel, which lasted three years, before the Romans managed to conquer the province for good, at a high cost in terms of manpower and expense.

After the defeat of Bar Kokhba (132-135 CE) the Roman Emperor Hadrian was determined to wipe out the identity of Israel-Judah-Judea, and renamed it Philistina (after the ancient enemy of the Israelites; the Philistines). Until that time the area had been called "province of Judea" by the Romans. At the same time, he changed the name of the city of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina. The Romans killed many Jews and sold many more into slavery; many Jews departed into the Jewish diaspora, but there was never a complete Jewish abandonment of the area. [5]

20th century

Bedouins live in the desert around Judea.

As today's definition of Judea mostly covers the portion of the West Bank south of Jerusalem, the following subdivisions of both Israel and the PNA fall within the demographically-disputed area:

PNA governorates

Israeli settlement councils


Map of the southern Levant, c.830s BCE.      Kingdom of Judah      Kingdom of Israel      Philistine city-states      Phoenician states      Kingdom of Ammon      Kingdom of Edom      Kingdom of Aram-Damascus      Aramean tribes      Arubu tribes      Nabatu tribes      Assyrian Empire      Kingdom of Moab


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East : Israel : Judean Desert
The Dead Sea, as seen from the Judean Desert
The Dead Sea, as seen from the Judean Desert


The Judean Desert, located in the eastern edge of south-central Israel, is an array of hills and canyons, falling from the heights of around 1,000 meters in the Judean Mountains, to the Dead Sea which is, at -421 meters below sea level, the lowest place on earth. At its eastern edge, the Judean desert dramaticly drops into the Dead Sea in cliffs of up to 500 meters, and waterfalls in the dry canyons fall in heights of 50-330 meters. The coast of the dead sea offers many cold and hot springs.

The Judean Desert has an average annual rainfall of 47mm. This is due to the fact that the rains in Israel, which comes from the Mediterranean Sea, are blocked by the Judean mountains, creating a rainshadow desert over the eastern slopes of the mountains (the Judean desert), while the western slopes (the Shephelah) receive an average annual rainfall of about 500mm. Because of that, the Judean desert contains a relatively large amount of oases, which are fed by the groudwater from the western slopes of the Judean mountains.

Though hostile and arid, the Judean desert was settled since before recorded history. Jericho, which was founded over 12,000 years ago (around 9,000 BCE), is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, and it is the first city in the world that had walls built to protect it. Another notable place is Ein Gedi, a large oasis that had cities built around it for over 6,000 years. Inside the desert itself there are numerous isolated monasteries, many are still active to this day.

The Judean desert played an important role in the jewish kingdoms in Israel during the biblical times, and also during the greek and roman times.

Kelt oasis in the Prath river
Kelt oasis in the Prath river
The canyon of Arugot river, one of the oases of Ein Gedi
The canyon of Arugot river, one of the oases of Ein Gedi

Because of its' rough terrain and climate, The Judean desert was known as a hiding place for refugees and rebels. King David fled to the Judean desert with his soldiers after king Saul ordered to have him killed. During the greek and roman times, the Hasmonean dynasty and the roman client king Herod the Great built and fortified many forts, strongholds and even palaces in the Judean desert, most famously, Masada. During the Roman-Jewish wars, the jewish rebels fled to the Judean desert and fortified in the strongholds there. The last free standing jewish stronghold in jewish history, prior to the establishment of the modern state of Israel, was Masada.

Mar-Saba, a monastrey built inside a cliff in the Kidron canyon
Mar-Saba, a monastrey built inside a cliff in the Kidron canyon


Every jewish settlement along the coast of the Dead sea has a hostel. There is also a hostel at the base of Masada. High class hotels can be found in Ein-Bokek and Neve-Zohar in the southern coast of the Dead sea. You can also camp for free in the coast of Ein-Gedi and Ein-Bokek, where you also have shops, beach-showers and bathrooms.

Stay safe

Though it passes through the west bank, there are no Palestinian settlements in the Judean desert except for Jericho. Along the coastline of the dead sea and at the edges of the desert from each direction there are scattered jewish settlements, therefore the area is mostly under Israeli control, making the area a lot safer than most of the west bank (though still not as safe as central Israel). Inside the desert itself there are nomadic tribes of Beduins. The coastline of the Dead sea and the areas around and south of Ein-Gedi are just as safe as central Israel.

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