Ein Gedi is an idyllic desert oasis near the Dead Sea on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert in southern Israel. Ein Gedi means “spring of the kid” (young goat)” probably because of the spring streams that run through Ein Gedi and perhaps because of the many agile goats you can see along the surrounding cliffs. The main attraction for tourists is the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
This national park is the largest oasis in the country and one of the few places where desert streams flow year-round. The park lies alongside Kibbutz Ein Gedi and covers 1435 hectares. Visitors to Ein Gedi can walk along pathways and trails that follow the streams, through ravines and past towering cliffs. The park encompasses waterfalls and natural pools where visitors can bathe. There are also canyons, caves, the remains of an early Bronze Age temple and lush vegetation.
Ein Gedi is home to some rare and endangered species of plants. Among the greenery you can see small animals like the rock hyrax. Along the edge of rocks Nubian ibex (a desert goat species) defy gravity by walking effortlessly along almost vertical cliffs. Other animals living in Ein Gedi include wolves, bats, foxes and animals that are mostly active at night.
The park has four main springs but the most popular is David Stream. The David Stream Trail runs parallel to the stream and passes by a number of natural pools and waterfalls where you can cool off. The hike trail along the Arugot Stream is longer and usually less crowded. Most of this trail requires walking through the water. The abundant water feeds the trees and plants including Christ’s thorn jujube, desert date trees, Sodom’s apple milkweed as well as reeds, elephant grass, ferns and willow trees.
Ein Gedi in the Bible
It is believed that Ein Gedi is referred to in Chronicles II 20:2 as Hazazon-tamar, a place where the Ammonites and Moabites gathered to fight King Josaphat. The same site is referred to as an Amorite settlement in Genesis 14:7. In Joshua Ein Gedi is one of the wilderness cities listed as belonging to the Tribe of Judah. In Ezekiel we read how Ein Gedi will become a fishing village when the water of the Dead Sea turns sweet.
The most famous Biblical reference to Ein Gedi is in Samuel I when King David took refuge in the Judean Desert as he fled his predecessor King Saul. Ein Gedi is referred to again in Psalm 63 when David goes into the wilderness of Judah. There are also mentions of Ein Gedi in the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastics.
Other Attractions at Ein Gedi
Not far from the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is Kibbutz Ein Gedi. The kibbutz runs a guest house and botanical garden. Almost the entire area of the kibbutz is planted with beautiful plant species from around the world. There are about 900 species covering 10 hectares. While at Ein Gedi visit the Na’ama Lookout in the Ein Gedi Field School. From here there are views across Ein Gedi. You can also cross the road and go down to the Dead Sea for a swim; see the remains of the Ein Gedi Synagogue between David Stream and Argot Stream or see the Chalcolithic-era temple that has been excavated nearby.