The Judaean Desert (Hebrew: מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה Midbar Yehuda, both Desert of Judah or Judaean Desert; Arabic: صحراء يهودا Sahara Yahudan) is a desert in Israel and the West Bank that lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. It stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El, and is marked by terraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. The Judaean Desert is crossed by numerous wadis from northeast to southeast and has many ravines, most of them deep, from 1,200 feet in the west to 600 feet in the east. The Judaean Desert is an area with a special morphological structure along the east of the Judaean Mountains.
It is sometimes known as יְשִׁימוֹןYeshimon, meaning desert or wildland, or yet Wilderness of Judah or Wilderness of Judaea, among others.
The Judaean Desert lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. Rainfall in the Judaea region varies from 400–500 millimetres (16–20 in) in the western hills, rising to 600 millimetres (24 in) around western Jerusalem (in central Judaea), falling back to 400 millimetres (16 in) in eastern Jerusalem and dropping to around 100mm in the eastern parts, due to a rainshadow effect. The climate ranges from Mediterranean in the west and desert climate in the east, with a strip of steppe climate in the middle. Major urban areas in the region include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Gush Etzion, Jericho and Hebron.
A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem of an underground water reservoir beneath the Judaean Desert known as the Judaea Group Aquifer, found that the aquifer begins in the Judaean Mountains and flows in a northeasterly direction towards the Dead Sea with outflows at the Tsukim, Kane, Samar and Ein-Gedi springs. The rain-fed aquifer contains an average yearly volume of some 100 million cubic meters of water.