Photo of the Week – Flowers in Judean Desert

The Dead Sea and Judean desert are just a half hour drive down the hill from Jerusalem making it very accessible. It is the lowest place on earth, 409 meters below sea level, an area bordered by mountains on both sides in a desert with running water and in one area geothermal springs. I drove down this week to enjoy the hot springs and float in the mineral-rich cool sea. I can’t remember a time when i’ve seen the hills so green with so many wildflowers blooming.

Flowers in Judean DesertThe technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon D90 digital SLR camera in March (ISO 200, 20mm, F10 at 1/250 sec). Clicking on the image will display it larger.

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in buying or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Jerusalem under Snow

Some tourists may be surprised to have woken up this morning to Jerusalem covered in a blanket of snow and unprepared for the colder temperatures of a Jerusalem winter. A local guide can ensure that you are prepared, keep warm and find places to go no matter what the weather. This morning was bright and sunny so I went for a walk in the neighborhood and took these photographs, a different view of the city.Hursha in snowWe live in the German Colony and nearby is the old leper hospital built in 1887 by renowned architect Conrad Schick.

Jesus Hilfe leper hospital

Trees in woods

Tree

Strange to have snow fall after the almond trees have blossomed. In our garden, the peach, apricot and apple tree were blossoming when the snow fell. The fields were covered with yellow mustard flowers and red anemone before they were covered by snow.

The Enigma that is Herodium

Today I was at Herodium with clients. As we descended into the bowl of the upper fortress/palace I noticed a group of workers sitting eating lunch in front of the wooden doors to the excavations taking place in the staircase. I immediately recognized Roi Porat and Yakov Kalman who had been in charge of the excavations of the tomb area with Prof. Netzer when I volunteered at the site in summer of 2008. Yakov was kind enough to let us peek inside. Here he shares some of his views about excavating at Herodium.

You have to put aside what you read in the books and examine and evaluate what you see as you excavate in order to understand what is going on. Herodium is not a simple site. The staircase was filled in with earth in Herod’s time, it doesn’t appear that the stairs were completed or ever used. There are two levels of arches, the lower ones to support the stair bed, the upper ones to define the space in which to walk – but there is no stair bed. Along one side is a covered drainage channel that carried water from the courtyard to the cistern. There is a small entrance hall with plastered walls and frescoes; the walls of the stairwell are rough stones.

I thanked him and mentioned that my week working at the excavation was very important to my understanding of Herodium and one that I value very much as a guide. And then Yakov had to get back to work. I did manage to take a few photos on my cell phone.

Herodium staircase

Looking down the staircase, covered channel on the left resting on unfinished lower arches.

Herodium frescoes in staircase

Small entrance way, plastered walls with fresco.

Herodium enigma

Small area between the entrance way and staircase.

Through My Lens, Dead Sea

SB MudThe Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on earth, part of the Great African Rift valley, in the crack in the earth’s crust created when Asia and Africa were torn apart five million years ago. Yesterday we drove down to the Dead Sea from Jerusalem for a relaxing day. We chose Mineral Beach and soaked in the 39º C (that’s 102º F) thermal pool, floated in the Dead Sea and slathered ourselves with mud.

In my last couple of blog posts, A Glimpse of Tomb of Moses and Sunset at Large Makhtesh, I shared photographs that I took in the late afternoon, a good time to take photographs. These photos continue this theme, taken as the sun sank behind the cliffs and the moon rose over the mountains of Moab in Jordan. The photographs were taken with a Nikon D90 DSLR camera with 18-200mm zoom lens.

Blue Dead Sea

Dead Sea in Blue, early afternoon

The photograph below was taken pointing west at the sun after it had sunk behind the mountain (the other photos were pointing east at Jordan). This meant that there was only a few minutes of light to capture these images.

Sun setting Dead Sea

Sun sinking behind the mountains

Dead Sea sunset

Sunset at Dead Sea

Moonrise over Dead Sea

Moonrise over Dead Sea

Photo of the Week – Sunset at Large Makhtesh

In Israel’s Negev desert are three examples of a geological formation unique to this area, the makhtesh. You can go off-road and explore it by jeep or hike in the makhtesh but a paved road gives easy access to travelers. Highway <228> from Yeruham crosses the Large Makhtesh and highway <40> a scenic route drops 250 meters and traverses Makhtesh Ramon on the way to Eilat. There are two smaller access roads that take you to the Small Makhtesh. Each makhtesh is a great place for photographs.

Makhtesh landscape

The technical details: the photo was shot at 6pm in January in the Large Makhtesh with a Lumix point and shoot camera, ISO 125, 4.1mm, F3.3 at 1/40 sec.

Clicking on the image will display it larger. Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

A Glimpse of the Tomb of Moses

Driving from Jerusalem to Jericho or the Dead Sea there is a road sign with the words “Nebi Musa”, the prophet Moses. As the landscape flashes by outside your window you may be able to make out a low stone building with white domes that appears fleetingly between the hills. To explore further, take the exit and follow the curving road past a Muslim cemetery on the slope in the desert, an interesting location to photograph in black and white or color.

Nebi musa

Nebi Musa cemetery B&W

Nebi Musa cemetery 2 B&W

From this point you can look across the Jordan Valley and see Mount Nebo where according to the last chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended the mountain to view the land of Israel, that he would never enter. According to Jewish tradition Moses died and was buried in an unknown valley in Moab; according to Christian tradition and some Muslim traditions, Moses was buried on the mountain. 

The Nebi Musa site off the Jerusalem-Jericho road goes back to 1269 when the Mamluk sultan Baybars built a small shrine setting a precedent for others. Over the late medieval period (between 1470 and 1480), accommodation for travelers was added next to the shrine. Gradually, the lookout point for Moses’ distant gravesite beyond the Jordan was confused with Moses’ tomb itself, laying the groundwork for the cultic importance of Nebi Musa to Muslims. Around 1820 the Ottoman Turks restored the buildings which had over the previous centuries fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair.

The Turks promoted a festive pilgrimage to the shrine that goes back to the time of Saladin that coincides on the calendar with the Christian celebration of Easter. This ‘invention of tradition’, as such imaginative constructs are called, made the pageantry of the Nebi Musa pilgrimage a potent symbol of religious as well as political and national identity among Muslims from the outset of the modern period.

Nebi Musa 2

Nebi Musa Judean desert

Nebi Musa

Through My Lens, Textures

For a change, rather than taking photographs of objects, try textures. Here are some close-up photographs that I took focussing on the textures that you can find occurring in nature. Try to guess what the object is in the photograph and where it might have been taken – I’d be interested in your comments. All photos were taken in Israel with a Nikon DSLR with a 18-200mm lens.

Wavy texturePeratzim wavesThis is Nahal Peratzim, at the southern end of the Dead Sea, a great place for a moonlit hike.

Brush texturePeratzim bushAlso Nahal Peratzim, a dry bush at the entrance to the canyon forms the texture and color of an interesting photo.

Dead Sea textureDead SeaThe salt and pebbles form these textures in the Dead Sea at Ein Boqeq. The dark line of land delineates the sea and the sky.

I also have some colorful photos from the Makhtesh HaKatan, Israel’s smallest erosion crater. For more photographs check out the PHOTOGRAPHY tab on the menu.