The Judaean Desert

A 'Rain Shadow' Desert

So the Judaean Desert is a ‘Rain Shadow’ Desert. But what is it exactly? So simply said, a rain shadow is a piece of land that has been forced to become a desert. How? because mountains range blocked all plant growing, rainy weather.  When you come to visit the Judean Desert from Tel Aviv you can see this in the best possible way. For example when using highway number 1 that connects Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; then continues to the Dead Sea Area. So you start your journey from the Mediterranean Sea (Sea Level); get to Jerusalem that is on top of the Judean Mountains (850 meters approx), and end in the Dead Sea (450m below sea level) which is located in the Judean Desert.

What Makes the Judaean Desert A ‘Rain Shadow’ Desert?

When you come from the west (Tel Aviv) you clearly see that side of the hills and mountains abundant with flora fauna due to the wet weather system that drops rain end even snow sometimes. On the other side of the Judean mountains; immediately when you pass from West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem on route to the Dead Sea; the rain shadow side – all precipitation is blocked. In a rain shadow, it’s warm and dry. on the other side of the Judean mountains, it’s wet and cool (not including the hot summer months, July-August.)

Why Is There a Difference?

When an air mass moves from the Mediterranean Sea (Sea Level) gaining more and more elevation while going up towards the Judean Mountains; that air mass expands and cools. This cool air can not hold moisture as well as warm air. So Cool air forms clouds, which drop rain and very rarely in our case even snow, as it rises up the Judean Mountains. But immediately after it passes over Jerusalem (the peak), this air mass is expected while it starts down the other side, this very steep and fast drop towards the Dead Sea which is located officially at the lowest place on the planet. The air warms up and the clouds dissipate; meaning there is much less rainfall.

So unlike the Negev Desert which is a part of the World Desert Strip. The Judean Desert is a uniquely local phenomenon. In fact, you can say it has its own microclimate. Also, another interesting fact worth mentioning is that the Judean Desert is officially one of the smallest deserts in the world!


Hi! My name is Arik, an Israeli native who dedicated his life to sharing my passion for the Holy Land with those interested in knowing more about this incredible piece of land. I’m the Chief Guide at ‘APT Private Tours in Israel’.

Did you know the Hoopoe is Israel's national bird?! For more cool info about Israel, join our ever growing community and get exclusive travel tips, and giveaways!

Herodium National Park


Masada National Park

Masada National Park is one of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions. Located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea; the ...

Wadi Murabba’at Nature Reserve

The Wadi Murabba’at Nature Reserve, known as the Nahal Darga Nature Reserve is one of the best hikes that runs through the Judaean Desert.

Monasticism in the Holy Land

Monasticism, a tradition of disciplined and ascetic living devoted to spiritual growth, has a deep-rooted history in the Holy Land, encompassing a tapestry of religious, ...

Mount of Temptation

Mount of Temptation is the Mount located in the Judaean Desert where according to the Gospel of Matthew Jesus was tempted by the devil!

Great Rift Valley

The Great Rift Valley (Syrian African Rift) is an amazing geological phenomenon you can see when touring Israel especially the Dead Sea Area.

Mar Saba Monastery

Mar Saba Monastery is a monastery built on a cliff on the slope of a Valley in the Judaean Desert; one of Israel's the oldest ...

Ein Gedi’s Ancient Synagogue

Ein Gedi's ancient synagogue is dating back to the 3rd or 4th century CE, is one of the oldest synagogues in Israel.

The Temple at Ein Gedi

The Chalcolithic Temple at Ein Gedi is one of the three sanctuaries dated to the Chalcolithic period that can be found in the area.

Mount Hermon

Mount Hermon is called by the 'Eyes of the State.' It's the highest mountain in Israel, with unique Fauna and Flora. Click here for more!

Masada Museum

Masada is a mountaintop fortress located in the Judean Desert, near the Dead Sea in Israel. It was built by King Herod the Great during ...

Need help?