In the 4th Century, shortly after Christianity became a legal religion in the Roman Empire, monks started settling in the Judean Desert. They especially favored the area between Jerusalem and the baptism site, believing it is was where Jesus battled Satan’s temptations. Eventually, over 50 monasteries were established in this part of the Judean Desert. Most of the monasteries were destroyed in the Persian invasion in 614 CE. Others were abandoned following the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land. Today, less then five of them are active.
In 2011, my friend, Ron Peled, and I, created a few short videos about some of these monasteries. We started at En Prat, where the very first monastery in the Judean Desert was established, by a monk called Kharitun –
Next, we drove to Euthymius Monastery, and documented the rich remains of the monastery founded by one of Kharitun’s followers, Saint Euthymius –
Next, in the heart of a modern suburb of Jerusalem, we filmed at the Martyrius Monastery –
On a different date, we filmed at Saint George Monastery, which is so known for its beautiful layout location –
I still hope to have a chance to film at Mar Saba Monastery, and at the baptism site during the Epiphany Festival. This event demonstrates the significance of the area east of Jerusalem to the Christian world.
Touring the Judean Desert Monasteries
Kharitun Monastery is part of En Prat National Park which is open every day. Euthymius Monastery and Martyrius Monastery can only be visited by appointment. Saint George Monastery is only open in the morning, but its famous lookout is always accessible.