St Gerassimos Greek Orthodox Monastery, the Judean desert.

The Monastery of St Gerassimus, one of the earliest of the 70-plus monasteries in the Judaean desert, on the north bank of the Dead Sea, is named in honour of a pioneering monk who is usually depicted with a pet lion, having removed a thorn from its paw.
The monastery functioned in the form of a laura — with a cluster of hermits’ caves located around a community and worship centre. The hermits spent weekdays alone in their caves, occupied in prayer and making ropes and baskets. They went to the centre for Saturdays and Sundays, taking their handiwork and partaking in Divine Liturgy and communal activities.
The monastic rule was strict. During the week the hermit monks survived on dry bread, dates and water. At the weekends they ate cooked food and drank wine. Their only personal belongings were a rush mat and a drinking bowl.
Hermits’ caves can still be seen in the steep cliffs east of the monastery and in the adjacent mountains.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran

One of the most important discoveries of the 20th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls include fragments from every book of the Old Testament except for the Book of Esther. They have provided Old Testament manuscripts a thousand years older than known previously. They demonstrate how the Old Testament was accurately transmitted during that time, and in addition provide a wealth of information on the times leading up to, and during, the life of Jesus.

The cliffs and caves of Qumran looking towards the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

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