• Keywords: Palestine, Cultural Landsape, EL-Bariyah, Judean Desert, Byzantine monasteries, Monastery of Saint Theodosius, Mar Saba, Monastery of Saint George, Wadi Khareitun caves, Iraq al-Ahmar, Umm Qal’a, Umm Qatafa, Herodion fortress, Khan el-Ahmar, Maqam an-Nabi Musa, Muslim pilgrimage, christianity, Paleolithic remains.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape is in the Tentative List of UNESCO (named: “El-Bariyah: wilderness with monasteries”), date of submission: 04/02/2012, criteria: (i)(ii)(iii), category: cultural, ref.: 5708. It is also classified as one of the most important Bird Areas in the Western Palaearctic (Birdlife International).

  • Tentative List of UNESCO
  • Others

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

El-Bariyah, also called the ‘Jerusalem Wilderness’ or the ‘Judean Desert’, is a semi-arid zone that extends between the central hills of Jerusalem. During the Byzantine period, el-Bariyah became one of the most important monastic centres in the world. The monasteries proved an attraction for men of an ascetic disposition from a wide area, they temporarily or permanently stayed to devote their lives to religious practice within the communal life of a monastery. If the site is proposed as a Cultural site in the Tentative List of UNESCO, Med-O-Med has decided to give one more step considering the site as Cultural Landscape (associative landscape), taking into account its natural and cultural heritage (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008). It is proposed as an important cultural landscape also due to its strategic location – in the Holy Land and on the Rift Valley – its conditions, qualities and associations notably with Jesus and significant early Christians.: -Its Natural Heritage Components: Given that this area has a unique geological formation, bio-geographic location, and an abundance of water from flash floods and permanent springs, these factors help to create a natural diversity within the desert habitat in this region. El-Bariyah is consequently classified by the criteria of Birdlife International as one of the most important Bird Areas in theWestern Palaearctic. Birds increasingly concentrate here in considerable numbers during breeding, on passage, and in winter, especially since el-Bariyah is on one of the major migration routes for many bird species worldwide. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: El-Bariyah is also rich in cultural heritage. Archaeological investigations have shown continuous occupation in different parts of it, extending from the Lower Palaeolithic period to modern times. Throughout the history of the Holy Land, whenever people fled civilization, el-Bariyah was the ideal place to take refuge – or, as Jesus himself experienced during his ‘40 days and 40 nights’, simply to meditate. After the growth of Christianity, hermits began to inhabit the caves of El-Bariyah and built a series of monasteries which subsequently formed a monastic centre. These monasteries are outstanding features of a prosperous monastic life, some of them associated with events related to Jesus or to monks who played crucial roles in the development of the monastic movement. Such were Saint Chariton andSaba. By the time of Saba (439-532), founder of the great monastery of Mar Saba, 73 monastic settlements lay in the desert east ofJerusalem. Some were later rebuilt, including Saint George Monastery, Deir Mar Saba and Deir Theodosios. During the Islamic period, a series of shrines, maqams, were established in El-Bariyah, such as Khan el-Ahmar and Maqam an-Nabi Musa. These sites are important places on the Muslim pilgrimage route to Mecca.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Al Bariyah, El-Bariyah, Jerusalem Wilderness, Judean Desert.
  • Current denomination Al Bariyah, El-Bariyah, Jerusalem Wilderness, Judean Desert.
  • Original denomination Al Bariyah, El-Bariyah, Jerusalem Wilderness, Judean Desert.
  • Popular denomination Al Bariyah, El-Bariyah, Jerusalem Wilderness, Judean Desert.
  • Address: State, Province or Region: Al Bariyah.
  • Geographical coordinates: N31 20 42 - 31 50 20 E35 19 07 - 35 30 13
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: El-Bariyah is a semi-arid zone that extends between the central hills of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron on the west and the Dead sea on the east.
  • Access and transport facilities: It can be reached either by Bethlehem district or from the south side of the Dead Sea region and go up to the high mountain and then to this wonderful area. This area is contact with Ain Gedi region from the southern eastern part region of the West Bank.
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El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape (PALESTINE)

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El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape (PALESTINE) 31.838889, 35.503611 El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape (PALESTINE) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: The majority of worship and other sacred places in El-Bariyah are owned by the Christian Churches and by the Islamic Waqf (foundation), and therefore their protection was entrusted to these institutions. The spontaneous restorations carried out in these sites, while, performed in good faith, but lacks the technical supervision.

4. HISTORY

Archaeological investigations have shown continuous occupation in different parts of it, extending from the Lower Palaeolithic period to modern times. Throughout the history of the Holy Land, whenever people fled civilization, el-Bariyah was the ideal place to take refuge – or, as Jesus himself experienced during his ‘40 days and 40 nights’, simply to meditate. After the growth of Christianity, hermits began to inhabit the caves of el-Bariyah and built a series of monasteries which subsequently formed a monastic centre. These monasteries are outstanding features of a prosperous monastic life, some of them associated with events related to Jesus or to monks who played crucial roles in the development of the monastic movement. Such were Saint Chariton andSaba. By the time of Saba (439-532), founder of the great monastery of Mar Saba, 73 monastic settlements lay in the desert east ofJerusalem. Some were later rebuilt, including Saint George Monastery, Deir Mar Saba and Deir Theodosios. During the Islamic period, a series of shrines, maqams, were established in el-Bariyah, such as Khan el-Ahmar and Maqam an-Nabi Musa. These sites are important places on the Muslim pilgrimage route to Mecca.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Other
  • Geography: High Mountain
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: Most of the el-Bariyah area is classified as Irano-Turanian in climate, with a mountainous desert habitat. This region lies in the rain-shadow of the central highlands, classified as a hot area that receives a very low annual rainfall, varied between 400 mm to 150 mm from west to east respectively.
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: Essentially a treeless, thin-soiled, arid and dramatically eroding limestone plateau is dissected by wadi draining towards the Dead Sea. Given that this area has a unique geological formation, bio-geographic location, and an abundance of water from flash floods and permanent springs, these factors help to create a natural diversity within the desert habitat in this region.
Water resources:
  • Public
There is abundance of water from flash floods and permanent springs.
Fauna:

The most important animals of this area are: Capra ibex, Gazella, Rocky Hyrax, Fox, Hyeana. Birds increasingly concentrate in El-Bariyah in considerable numbers during breeding, on passage, and in winter, especially since the site is on one of the major migration routes for many bird species worldwide. The Large Raptors especially the Egyptian Vulture is one of the birds found in this region and stays and breads in it. There is also the Griffon Vulture that can be found around Al Fashkha on the Dead Sea.

Land uses and economical activities:
Religious, spiritual.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

El-Bariyah is a semi-arid zone that extends between the central hills of Jerusalem. The area has a unique geological formation, bio-geographic location, and an abundance of water from flash floods and permanent springs, these factors help to create a natural diversity within the desert habitat in this region. El-Bariyah is also rich in cultural heritage. Archaeological investigations have shown continuous occupation in different parts of it, extending from the Lower Palaeolithic period to modern times.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

Monastic life: For the first monks who followed in the footsteps of Jesus, the severe climate here was a real test of their faith. Until the fourth century, Christian monastic centres existed mainly in Asia Minor and Egypt. On a quest for perfection and renouncing material possessions, ascetic monks from all over the Christian world settled in caves suspended on the sides of the cliffs of gorges (wadis) in the desert. Choosing a life of solitude, they met only for Sunday mass and a dominical meal thereafter. These coenobitic communities welcomed pilgrims and travellers and actually grew very prosperous. The great figures of monasticism, such as Euthymius, Sabas, and Theodosious, to mention just the well – known monks, lived in the Judaean desert and played an influential role in the development of Christian liturgy and dogma, it was due to them that western monasticism developed. On the night of the Sassanian (Persian) invasion, in 614, there were no less than 10.000 monks living in the Judaean desert. Yet only three of the first monasteries are still active nowadays – the Monastery of Saint Theodosius, Mar Saba to the west of Bethlehem, and the Monastery of Saint George in Wadi Qelt.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    Evidence of habitation in early prehistoric times (100,000-10,000 BC) is particularly well-attested along the north side of Wadi Khareitun where three caves, ‘Iraq al-Ahmar, Umm Qal’a, and Umm Qatafa’, once provided homes in a wooded landscape overlooking a river. Umm Qatafa, across the wadi opposite ‘Old Laura’ monastery, has a particular significance in providing the earliest evidence of the domestic use of fire in Palestine. During the early Roman era, the Herodion fortress 5 km south-east of Bethlehem city was built by Herod the Great between 24 and 15 BC as a castle/palace complex. It dominates the landscape of el-Bariyah as well as overlooks the Wadi Khareitoun immediately to the south. The complex was built on a conical hill shaped and secured by the erection of massive retaining walls. This artificial mound was equipped with a sophisticated fortification system, including an elaborate water supply. Subsequently, Byzantine monks turned the fortress into a monastery in the 6-7th centuries AD, and built churches around its base.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Monasteries, caves, ancient remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: The Bedouin tribes are an important part of the Palestinian heritage as they have roamed Palestine for thousands of years. The Bedouin tribes are spread throughout El-Bariyah as the area is rich in natural resources, such as water and grazing land, as well as many caves which have served as Bedouin shelters for millennia.
  • Languages and dialects: Bedouin
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: This land has also been reasonably far from human civilization. Traditionally, the Bedouin tribes have led a nomadic life, moving to the hills in early April and back down to the valleys in early September to escape the weather.

5.3. Quality

Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
The site is a perfect place to keep atach with yourself, to breath in silence and to observe the stars.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Wadi Khareitun caves: Iraq al-Ahmar, Umm Qal’a, and Umm Qatafa and the ancient remains associated to them. -The Monasteries: Umm Qatafa, Old Laura, Monastery of Saint Theodosius, Mar Saba, and the Monastery of Saint George in Wadi Qelt. -The Herodion fortress. -The Judean desert itself.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Geological/Geographical
The main tangible values of "El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape" are: -Aesthetic: The judean desert within the monasteries and caves compose a wonderful landscape of incomparable aesthetic values. -Archaeological: Evidence of habitation in early prehistoric times (100,000-10,000 BC) is particularly well-attested along the north side of Wadi Khareitun where three caves, ‘Iraq al-Ahmar, Umm Qal’a, and Umm Qatafa’, once provided homes in a wooded landscape overlooking a river. Umm Qatafa, across the wadi opposite ‘Old Laura’ monastery, has a particular significance in providing the earliest evidence of the domestic use of fire in Palestine. Also, during the early Roman era, the Herodion fortress 5 km south-east of Bethlehem city was built by Herod the Great between 24 and 15 BC as a castle/palace complex. -Geological: The area has a unique geological formation, bio-geographic location, and an abundance of water from flash floods and permanent springs, these factors help to create a natural diversity within the desert habitat in this region. -Zoological: Birds increasingly concentrate in El-Bariyah in considerable numbers during breeding, on passage, and in winter, especially since the site is on one of the major migration routes for many bird species worldwide. et only three of the first monasteries are still active nowadays – the Monastery of Saint Theodosius, Mar Saba to the west of Bethlehem, and the Monastery of Saint George in Wadi Qelt.

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Religious
The main intangible values of "El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape" are: -Historical: Archaeological investigations have shown continuous occupation in different parts of it, extending from the Lower Palaeolithic period to modern times. -Religious: During the Byzantine period, el-Bariyah became one of the most important monastic centres in the world. The monasteries proved an attraction for men of an ascetic disposition from a wide area, they temporarily or permanently stayed to devote their lives to religious practice within the communal life of a monastery. -Social significance/Cultural: The Bedouin tribes are an important part of the Palestinian heritage as they have roamed Palestine for thousands of years. The Bedouin tribes are spread throughout El-Bariyah as the area is rich in natural resources, such as water and grazing land, as well as many caves which have served as Bedouin shelters for millennia.
Authenticity:
-Comparison with other similar properties (UNESCO): The heritage of el-Bariyah is in a general sense sui generis in that its location to a large extent makes it unique because of its proximity to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Rift Valley and the Dead Sea. Such location makes it different from any similar area in the World, in particular because that proximity has strongly influenced its associative value, not least with Jesus. Of course, however, there are not dissimilar deserts and monasteries elsewhere in the world. In the case of the latter, for example, similar monasteries exist in theSinaiDesert, such as Saint Catherine’s on Mt. Sinai (founded by Emperor Justinian the Great in 560) and the Monastery of Studion in Constantinople (founded in 463).
Universality:
The exceptional significance of el-Bariyah in cultural terms stems from diverse facts, themselves reflecting massive changes in natural conditions. Long before it became a desert, El-Bariyah witnessed domestic fire in use in one of its prehistoric caves, the earliest such use so far attested in Palestine, long-term, extensive grazing both exploited the flora and helped create today’s seemingly bare, stony surface on which Bedouin still feed their flocks in a notable example of continuity demonstrating cause and effect, Herod built his remarkable site Herodion to dominate it strategically, its attractions as a hostile, lonely desert brought first Jesus then, growing out of an eremitic tradition, a remarkable concentration of early Christian/Byzantine monasteries. Later, continuing its religious associations, it was crossed by Muslim pilgrims en route to Mecca. Med-O-Med agrees to the UNESCO criteria to define the site as a Cultural Landscape (i, ii, iii): i) Several factors in el-Bariyah justify the use of this criterion: the domestication of fire in the prehistoriccaveofUmm Qatafa, the building-up of a large scale artificial fortification mound at Herodion, and the inhabited landscape of desert monasteries. These three features represent human creative genius, showing how people adjusted the natural components to serve their own needs while at the same time adapting to a difficult and hostile environment. ii) During the Byzantine period, el-Bariyah became one of the most important monastic centres in the world. The monasteries proved an attraction for men of an ascetic disposition from a wide area, they temporarily or permanently stayed to devote their lives to religious practice within the communal life of a monastery. In their building, their teaching and their missionaries, the monasteries developed as centres for the interchange of various human values on developments in architecture, technology, culture, science and education. ‘The desert monks [of el-Bariyah] were intensely involved in all the major politico-religious movements of their time. From among them came poets, historians, and great theologians whose writings had incalculable influence’. iii) Deir Mar Saba, built 439-53 AD and still a living monastery in 2005, provides an exceptional testimony to a 1500 year-old cultural tradition developed by and within the particular environment of el-Bariyah, the Judean Desert. It is one of the most architecturally significant monasteries of el-Bariyah, one which has been repeatedly adjusted structurally yet remains beautiful and spectacular as it clings to the cliffs of the Kidron valley.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
During the Islamic period, a series of shrines, maqams, were established in el-Bariyah, such as Khan el-Ahmar and Maqam an-Nabi Musa. These sites are important places on the Muslim pilgrimage route to Mecca.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

El-Bariyah Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Palestine which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5708/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.birdlife.org/index.html http://travelpalestine.ps/2011/09/20/el-bariyah-the-wilderness-palestines-new-ancient-destination/ http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/t5708.html http://portal.wildlife-pal.org/php/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=21 -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.