Bir Abu Shualeh


These impressive reservoirs in the Secacah brook, date to the Byzantine period or to the beginning of the Muslim period, so somewhere between the fourth and seventh centuries.

“Bir” – in Arabic means a cistern, Shualeh (written sometime as Shuala or Shua’ala) in Arabic means Torch or Flare, word associated with a flame of fire, and each one will imagine the context. I did read that maybe the context is related to Elijah the prophet who ascended in the heavenly flame. According to the Bible, in the book of Kings chapter 17, Elijah lived for a certain period in the area of a brook named Cherith which is few km north from here, maybe.

As we know, very limited rain reaches the Judean Desert, and yet, throughout history desert people know how to “catch” the limited water and route it through canals and embankment into cisterns. Most of the desert area is covered with soft chalk rocks, which are relatively impermeable to seepageand therefore contribute to the aridity of the area. The rock opacity causes the rainwater that cannot seep-in, to be collected in the channels and sometimes causes heavy flooding when it heavily rains on the mountain. The locals took advantage of this phenomenon in ancient times, and diverted the flood waters to cisterns. The chalk is crisp, white and porous rock. It is a rock that resembles limestone and is composed of the mineral calcite which is one of the most common minerals on earth. In fact, 4% of the earth’s mass is the mineral calcite, but unlike limestone, chalk has no crystalline structure. The result is, that the chalk is brittle compared to the limestone, and remains soft so that cisterns can be dug relatively easily. Although the chalk is porous it does not transmit water well, as its pores are very small and therefore it is a sealed rock.

As the desert is mostly covered with waterproof chalk, a situation is created in which the top layer of soil is washed, but the layer of soil at a depth of about 20 cm becomes very saline. This causes annual plants whose roots are close to the ground to grow without difficulty, especially Aaronsohnia and Erodium deserti. Of the perennials that are deep-rooted, only plants that are adapted to high salinity can grow, such as Common Reaumuria, Mediterranean saltwort, and the Suaeda asphaltica that covers extensive sections in the desert.

As usual we will end up with a question – As I mentioned, we are now in the heart of the Secacah brook. What is the source of the name Secacah? The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

From Hyrcania fortress – after descending from the fortress, continue to walk 400m with the aqueduct on your right side. You will reach then a path junction, turn right in the direction of Secacah brook. After 300m you will reach Bir Abu Shualeh.

If you start from the cave monastery, from Bir al-Katar, descend with Secacah brook, and after 700m you will reach Bir Abu Shualeh, which is located by the brook channel.

Information Sources

  1. Book: Derekh Eretz on Pottery, Stone and Man, Editor: Irit Zaharoni, Publisher: Ministry of Defense, State of Israel

Mention in the Bible

  1. Joshua Chapter 15 Verse 61

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