The land of Judea is in the center of the Land of Israel. Steep slopes climb up its western side to an altitude of almost 3,000 feet above sea level, while its eastern sides falls in a series of steps to the cliff of the Great Rift Valley along the shores of the Dead Sea.
There is no specific geographical area called the Land of Judea. Nevertheless, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority saw fit to define the area for us: the Gush Etzion Regional Council on the one hand and the Bethlehem Governorate on the other, have outlined the geographical area of this guide: 340 square kilometers (130 square miles), stretching south of Jerusalem to the north of Hebron, between the lowlands in the west and the Dead Sea in the east.
In addition, this area is divided between Area A – under full Palestinian Authority administrative and security control, Area B – under Palestinian Authority administrative control and joint Israeli and Palestinian security control, and Area C – under Israeli administrative and security control. The whole area is bisected by borders, security fences, bypass roads, and checkpoints.
The Land of Judea is an area with a fascinating history. The home of the biblical forefathers; Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the area of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdom of Judah, the homeland of the prophets Amos and Jeremiah, the birthplace of Jesus, the land of the Edomites who joined the Jewish Hasmonean Kingdom. King Herod built his royal estate in the area as well as a system of aqueducts that supplied water to Jerusalem. Bar Kokhba, together with Rabbi Akiva, led the second Jewish rebellion against Rome from this area. After the destruction of the Jewish villages in the Land of Judea, following the revolt, in the fourth century CE the Byzantine Desert Fathers built monasteries and churches for the thousands of hermits that settled in the Desert of the Holy City – i.e. the Judean Desert.
This guide is an attempt to shed light on this unique area. In parts of it, Areas A, Israelis are not permitted to enter without permission from the Civil Administration of the Israel Ministry of Defense. Other areas, deep in the Judean Desert, can only be reached by off-road vehicles. Nevertheless, for people living in Israel and visitors from abroad, the Land of Judea is a region where a deeper insight of this land, from the past to the present, can be gained – notwithstanding the political opinion of the reader.