Almost all tour groups will visit Qumran along the northwestern corner of the Dead Sea. While Cave 4 is outstanding to see, photograph, and talk about–but it seems a bit commercialized given the character of the site as a whole (ice cream, coffee, huge overpriced gift shop, etc., etc.).
If you have an extra 45 minutes (a realistic time estimate), why not take your group to actually visit one of the caves? The climb up to Cave 11 is exciting without being too difficult. It was here that over 21 texts were found, including the Temple Scroll—the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls (26.7 ft. long)!
To get to Cave 11, from the junction of Highway 90 and the entrance to the site of Qumran, head north on the paved road in the direction of Kalya , instead of going into Qumran. At the entrance to Kalya continue straight north—the asphalt changes to dirt, but it is a good road. As you drive north, on your right (east) there is a fence. At the north end of the fence stop the bus and “debus” (there is room there for the bus to turn around).
Look to the north northwest and you will see two huge openings in cliff—left side of above image). Cave 11 is to the right of these large openings and there is a path that leads directly to it.
It is about a 10-15 minute walk from where you have parked the bus and is a relatively easy climb (I strongly suggest taking water and a hat, along with your camera).
From the entrance to Cave 11 there is a great view south towards Qumran and the Dead Sea. It is a wonderful place to relive the trill of the discoveries of the scrolls! It is also a good place to visit if you arrive too early or too late at the site of Qumran (!#$@!).
To view additional images of Qumran and Caves 1, 4, and 11 Click Here.
Next Tuesday — My Favorite Site in Israel
Dr. Rasmussen can be contacted at email@example.com