The Jerusalem Series, Travel

The Secrets of the Wilderness – Hike with Dan

Wadi Darga and the Caves of Bar Kochba

This hike has it all. Adventure. Danger. Panorama. History. Spectacular views. Isolation. 

On the Northwestern side of the Dead Sea is a canyon system called the Nahal Darga. The word ‘Nahal’ means dry riverbed. The Nahal Darga  is a very deep, rugged, dry riverbed that flows into the Dead Sea. I gave this place a nickname. The little Grand Canyon. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth at over 1400 feet below sea level. It is truly desert. The rainfall is less than 2 inches per year. Normal daytime temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. My kind of hike. I cant wait to start.  I did not know all this the first time I hiked here. That is the thrill of hiking somewhere the first time. One never knows what is around the next bend.

I was alone the first time I explored this section. I have since trekked into this area more than any other. 

I left Jerusalem very early on the morning of May 4, 2014. The public bus system in Israel is incredible. There is a bus stop right on the Dead Sea highway at Metsoke Dragot Junction. From there, with my very detailed topographical map in hand I began the climb up the access road to the top of the mountain which is a climb of  about 1000 vertical feet. At the top of the mountain, the road turns into a dirt track for another mile or so. I found the trail and began the descent into one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. Down, down, and down. Not a technical descent, but steep enough to put the fear of God in you. One misstep and you would be seeing God. The trail snakes its way almost to the bottom and then turns to follow the canyon upstream. Not too far along is a sign which indicates another trail up. This one is technical. There are handholds put in for safety, but this trail goes straight up the cliff. At the end of an exciting climb are two very large caves. The Bar Kochba caves. 

Simon Bar Kochba was the leader of  a Jewish revolt against the Romans in 132 AD He was such a charismatic leader that many thought  he was the messiah. He was not. And so the Romans under Hadrian defeated this revolt in 135 AD. Most people know of the Jewish revolt of 66 AD with the ensuing Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It is interesting to note that when Hadrian put down the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 AD, the destruction was greater and the numbers of Jews killed, far exceeded what happened in 70 AD. The estimate of Jews killed exceed 580,000 by the end of 135 AD.

In the early 1950’s archaeologists discovered letters written and signed by Bar-Kochba himself in these very caves.  These caves were one of the last strong holds of the Bar Kochba revolt. I can see why he chose them. They are very hard to get to and very easy to defend. But, I am also sure that by the time Bar Kochba arrived to these parts, the  had reached a location of last resort. 

I very carefully descended from the caves. 3 of every 4 climbing accidents occur on the way down.

From there I continued to the bottom of the dry stream bed and climbed up the other side of the canyon.  Once up the mountain, I was treated with more spectacular views, and a level track straight through the desert to the top of another  descent back down to the Dead Sea. I always plan my hikes as a circle, and not an out and back. 1000 vertical feet down to the outskirts of Mizpe Shalem.  If you have ever used the Dead Sea fashion product called Ahava, you should know that they are produced at Mizpe Shalem. 

What can we learn? We put our faith not in man, but God alone. 

Psalm 65:5,6  I depend on God alone. I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me. He is my defender.

Take Care and God Bless.

The Jerusalem Series, Travel

The Secrets of the Wilderness – Hike with Dan!

Hiking in the Land of the Bible


What more can I say? I love to hike. It is a part of my nature. If  I see a mountain, I immediately want to climb it. If I see rough terrain, I want to challenge it. Combine that with the heat of the desert, throw in some of the lowest, most inhospitable terrain on earth and I am excited.  And what if this hike goes through land that has been talked about in the Bible for thousands of years? As a theological student and a student of the Bible, life doesn’t get any better than that!

Hiking with the Dead Sea behind me!


My name is Daniel. I have recently  lived in Jerusalem  for over five years.  On most free days, one could find me hiking somewhere in the desert. Mostly in the Judean wilderness, that swath of desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea,  the lowest place on Earth.

It is a geography that is unchanged from the days of the Patriarchs and the time of Jesus. 

As I explored this barren wasteland, it was often with the cherished biblical stories going through my mind. 


In the next several months I will be sharing some of these unique  hiking experiences from the Land of the Bible. Many of my hikes were solo. I loved going out with just a map, lots of  water, and the thrill of discovery around every bend.  As time went on and others knew about my hikes, I  would take people with me so they too could experience the land in a very almost intimate way. 


For now let me leave you with the following thoughts.

There is no place like the desert to remind oneself of your fragile humanity. Especially when water is almost depleted. Life’s priorities quickly become ordered. 

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1 – A Psalm of David (When he was in the Desert of Judah.)

I look forward to sharing more of my experiences with you in the near future.

Until then, Every Blessing.

The Jerusalem Series

Lighting candles in the Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem is always a hive of activity. As the sun gently rises over the distant hills, shopkeepers begin their commutes towards the city centre. Long days lie ahead, setting up shop in the empty streets.

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It does not take long for the crowds to appear -in their hundreds. Tourism in Jerusalem is very seansonal, depending on the events. As a holy city to three of the main monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism – Jerusalem welcomes over 3.5 million tourists a year.

One particular afternoon three friends and I were making our way back home after a drink sage tea in the sunshine under a palm tree. It was a Friday, one of the busiest days in the week. We weaved our way through the crowded streets of Muristan, up towards Christian Quarter Road and as we turned onto the road we heard a voice call to us.

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“Hello, lovely family!” 

I have to confess that when we arrived in Jerusalem, we were instructed to avoid conversation with shopkeepers and to just continue walking. The four of us were used to ignoring this instruction.

“We are in spirit, mate” Mal replied.

“How lovely!” The friendly shopkeeper said smiling as he laid out his coloured scarves for display.

I started to smile to myself as we continued walking. When I arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem all those years ago, I was told to keep my head down and walk straight from place to place, I remember being warned that I should not talk to anyone and that I certainly shouldn’t entertain the idea of conversation.

Time passed and our friendship with this particular shopkeeper had grown. The shopkeeper and his shop became a safe haven for some of us when we were walking home. I should stress that it is very unusual to not feel safe in Jerusalem, however, if we ever felt intimidated or at risk of being followed we would calmly walk to the shop and wait there whilst the shopkeeper would send some of his relatives to investigate.

One afternoon, we discovered that the shopkeeper’s birthday was in the following week and we decided to bake him a birthday cake: this soon became quite problematic as we remembered that we did not have any oven.

So, we set to work on preparing a toffee cheesecake and to our surprise, it was a big success. After hours of searching online we found the perfect recipie.

Navigating the Old City thta busy Friday morning turned into more of a challenge than we had anticipated. We tried our best to make the occasion a surprise. As we turned off the bustling David Street onto Christian quarter road we stopped at the first shop and asked if we could borrow a lighter.

The shopkeeper looked at us quizzically and cautioned us not to smoke as it was not good for our health: we continued to explain the plan. The poor shopkeeper only seemed to be more confused by our explanation as we uncovered the cake and began to light some candles.

However much we had planned for this event to be a surprise, our shopkeeper friend had seen us coming from a distance. Unbeknown to us we had gained a following of roughly twelve shopkeepers who slowly followed behind: I am sure they were following us for a piece of cheesecake.

The best moment was seeing a smiling face emerge from the shop and stare in utter shock at the crowd of people who were singing happy birthday. Even some tourists joined in to sing with us. We sang together in Arabic and English and then we all sat down and began to eat. The street was filled with laughter, fun and of course – thousands of tourists.

I am so grateful for that one conversation with a shopkeeper in the Old City, as it led to our hilarious friendship which still exists to this day.

I understand an appreciate the caution of the organisation that I worked for, and I would advise you to walk around the Old city in groups or pairs if you have any concerns. I really do believe that the Old City of Jerusalem is safe, however I would not advise single girls to walk around the city alone at night. Please, exercise caution; there are always exceptions to every rule and although the characters in the story are lovely (and real) there will always be people who sadly wish to take advantage of others.


Jerusalem series