Situated on the western shore of the Dead Sea, the popular Ein Gedi (“Spring of the Goat”) sparkles like a jewel against the arid backdrop of the Judean Desert. Considered to be Israel’s largest nature reserve, Ein Gedi offers a perpetual oasis of lush botanical gardens, cool spring-fed streams, and an expansive sanctuary for a variety of plant, bird, and animal species. While these elements stand in contrast to the encroaching desert landscape, it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, located approximately 50 miles northwest of Ein Gedi.
Dating back some 5,000 years, Ein Gedi was once a hub of commerce. Its chief export was medicinal balsam, used as a salve for cuts and sores, and was also effective at soothing sore throats. It was also an important source of water to travelers who were either doing business, or simply as a stopover. In approximately AD 70, Ein Gedi was destroyed and abandoned by the Romans during the first Jewish Rebellion. Before its founding as a kibbutz (communal settlement) in 1956, Ein Gedi had not been inhabited for 500 years.
To understand its popularity as a premier hiking destination for visitors, one need only look at the biblical account of David hiding from King Saul in the strongholds of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 23:29, 24:2). Offering nine different trails, Ein Gedi never ceases to challenge even the most experienced hiking enthusiast.
Archaeology buffs can examine artifacts in the Moringa and Mikveh Caves from periods as early as the Neolithic era, as well as the Chalcolithic Temple, which lies atop a scarp overlooking the oasis.
The reserve boasts an abundance of natural water, supplied by several spring-fed streams which flow year-round. Visitors have ready access to these springs and pools. One of the most famous destinations, the beautiful David’s Waterfall, is about an hour’s walk from the start of the hiking trails and affords an ideal cooling-off spot.
Whichever way you decide to spend your visit to Ein Gedi, you’ll be amazed by its many contrasts and timeless beauty.