(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
The Tze’elim stream near Masada and the Dead Sea marks the biggest gorge in the area. Its entrance, about 12 kilometers from the Dead Sea, is 350 meters above sea level, but when it flows out of the tan, dry canyon toward the salt flats, it is 300 meters below sea level. Its stark and beautiful landscapes are just an hour-and-a-half drive from Jerusalem.In the old days, trade caravans used to pass up this way to get to Hebron. Some of them carried salt from mines near the Dead Sea. Joni Gritzner, who manages public relations for the nearby Kfar Hanokdim desert hospitality village, says that the Beduin in the area used to waylay the caravans, stealing their goods or extorting them.