Things to Do in Dead Sea
Hemmed in by the rocky peaks of the Judean Desert to the west and the salty shores of the Dead Sea to the east, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is the largest and most beautiful oasis in Israel. A popular spot for hikers, it’s also famous for its biblical importance: This is the place where David hid from King Saul around 1000 BC.
Herod the Great, King of Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC, built his palace 1,000 feet above sea level in Jerusalem during the last quarter of the 1st century BC. At the time, the palace, now known as the Tower of David (Museum of the History of Jerusalem), was the second-most important building in Jerusalem, after the Jewish Second Temple, which he also constructed. Herod's Western Palace was built along the northwestern city wall in the Upper City with exceptional views of the Dead Sea.
At 3,700 square meters, the palace was once the largest structure in the area, although it is hard to believe today as virtually nothing remains of the ancient fortress except a few sections of the citadel known as the Tower of David. This is in large part due to Rebelling Jews entering and burning the palace during the First Jewish Rebellion in 66 AD. The Tower of David museum now occupies the site of the former palace and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. In its prime, the palace consisted of two main wings separated by lavish gardens and porticoes, guarded by three imposing towers. Rumors recently surfaced that the Tower of David may have been where Jesus was trialed and sentenced.
A series of natural and artificial caves found throughout the archaeological site of Qumran, the Qumran Caves are set in the Judaean Desert and were fortuitously revealed in 1947 by a local Bedouin boy while searching for a stray animal. Many archaeological digs have taken place since the discovery, with specialist Roland de Vaux conducting the principal excavations in the 1950s.
However, the real reason why the Qumran Caves are so famous is due to the fact that the oldest scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, were discovered here in 1956. The caves, named after the Arabic word meaning 'crescent moon,' are located on a plateau about a mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement of Kalya. Studies have shown that the first settlement in the area dates back the eighth century BCE and remained active until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Masada, an ancient fortress built by King Herod the Great, dates back to 37 BC. It’s location on a cliff overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea is a spectacular spot from which to watch the sunrise.