Unlike the Negev, the Judean Desert is not part of the world desert stripes of the subtropical latitudes, it is a rain shadow desert.
What the hell it means? Read here.
While driving from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, the scenery is changing dramatically once you start descending to the east. As The desert plateau gets to the Dead Sea Valley, it drops in a big cliff from 200 meters above Sea level, to -400 meters to the lowest place on earth. It all creates a very dramatic and beautiful landscape.
Because of the harsh environmental conditions, the place was used mainly as a getaway place for outlaws and rebellions who found their home in the caves of the desert. The many oasis around made it livable. The most famous rebellion is King David who ran away from Saul before he became the king himself.
Land of the Monasteries
Because of its relatively short distance to Jerusalem and isolated conditions, the place became an ideal place for people who were seeking for the monastery life. Many scattered along the area. You can visit some in Wadi-Qelt and Qasr Al-Yahud.