Ein-Gedi nature reserve, located on the western shores of the Dead Sea, is the largest desert oasis in Israel, and a marvel of nature, history and archeology. Excellent quality spring water combined with a warm and steady climate create a most unique and rich flora and fauna such as the Ibex, Hyrax and Tristram's starling. The abundance of water has also allowed significant human settlement throughout the centuries; within the boundaries of the reserve one can find an ancient synagogue, a prehistoric temple, hermit caves from the byzantine period and much more.
Summer: 08:00-17:00 Winter: 08:00-16:00 Friday and holidays: 08:00-15:00 Entrance fees: Adult: NIS 27; child: NIS 14. Group rate (over 30 people): Adult: 22 NIS; child 13NIS; Senior citizens 50% discount. Accessibility: Wheelchair-accessible trail Public toilets.
Flora and fauna
Excellent quality spring-water and warm temperatures year round have created an ideal habitat for vegetation of tropical origin. Large trees of Persian Salvadora, alongside desert dates emigrating from east African savannas, the oddly shaped "Apple of Sodom", and large Acacias can all be seen here. Wildlife in Ein-Gedi includes mammals such as Nubian Ibex, rock hyrax, red fox and several species of bats. Notable in Ein Gedi and most friendly to humans, is "Tristram's starling", a native species of bird named after Reverend and zoologist Henry Baker Tristram.
The neighboring Kibbutz of Ein-Gedi, founded in 1956 as an agricultural border settlement, derives its water supply from the Ein-Gedi springs. During the nineties, the Kibbutz and a private corporation have jointly founded a mineral water plant, utilizing the water allocation of the kibbutz and gradually enlarging it. This has sparked a legal and public campaign against the commercial use of spring water, which would otherwise flow in the nature reserve. A compromise that limited the extraction of water was eventually reached;
Ein-Gedi is mentioned in the bible numerous times. Thus, biblical stories are the inspiration to many names within the reserve such as the stream of David, spring of Sulamith and the cave of "Dodim" - both after the famous biblical text "Song of songs". Perhaps the most memorable story that can easily be visualized in the rocky cliffs of Ein-Gedi, is the escape of David (a warrior and to be king) from King Saul. David found shelter in a cave, in the "wilderness of Ein-gedi" (Samuel A 24).
The rarity of a sweet water source in this arid region has been exploited by mankind very early in history. Excavations in various parts of the nature reserve have unearthed rich findings; the ruins of a 6000 year temple from the copper age and a Jewish synagogue from the Talmudic period with an impressive decorated mosaic floor. An inscription in the mosaic refers to "the secret of town". Scholars suggest the secret could be local production of "Opus Balsamum" – the most prestigious perfume of the ancient world. Large clay vessels found in the reserve, that possibly contained the mysterious perfume, may strengthen this theory.
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