Ein-Gedi is a beautiful oasis between two dramatic canyons along the western shores of the Dead Sea. It is known for its nature reserve, archaeological sites, and scenic hikes along streams of refreshing water.
History of Ein Gedi
Humans settled in the oasis since the Chalcolithic period, some 5,500 years ago. A prehistorical temple operated next to Ein Gedi’s Spring, and its copper sacred objects were found in a cave nearby. The Bible records David hiding from Saul in the caves of Ein Gedi and later escaping to Masada (1 Samuel 23). In Roman times, a lucrative balsamon on perfume production operated in the Ein Gedi oasis. Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, desired it so much she convinced Mark Anthony to make these orchids her possession. In return, Herod rented it from her to continue benefitting from this perfume industry. Balsam production also thrived in the Byzantine period, but in the 6th century AD, the village was attacked, destroyed, and abandoned. In the 14th century, the Mamluks established a flour mill in the oasis but did not form a town.
Ein Gedi Today
In the last stage of the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, the War of Independence, Israeli forces sailed from Sodom on the Dead Sea, and landing at Ein Gedi, they declared it as part of the state of Israel. The military post became a kibbutz in 1956, which flourishes today. The Kibbutz developed a spa and a hotel, which operates amidst its famous botanical gardens. The springs of Ein Gedi are a national park that combines an archaeological site.
Touring Ein Gedi
Ein Gedi is about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, yet it feels like worlds apart. The nature reserve offers hikes to the oasis’ springs, with refreshing swimming stops in its freshwater pools. Its lush vegetation is also home to large flocks of Nubian Ibex and rock Hyrax, a land mammal resembling a guinea pig. Of its archaeological finds, the most impressive is the Byzantine period Synagogue. Its mosaic floor bears charming patterns and four lengthy Hebrew Inscriptions. One of the inscriptions alludes to a secret or a treasures hidden by the community. Kibbutz Ein Gedi offers a glimpse of the unique social lifestyle developed in Israel by the Zionist movement. Visitors can have a genuine lunch experience in its dining room and guided tours in its desert-style botanical gardens.
A tour of Ein Gedi is a perfect retreat with a guided day tour of the Dead Sea.