Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
An oasis located in the middle of the Judean desert, Ein Gedi was a bustling town in the time of Jesus. It also served as a refuge when King David was fleeing the wrath of his predecessor, King Saul, making it a key stop on your tour of the Holy Land.
Today Ein Gedi is a beautiful nature reserve and the site of an excavated synagogue mosaic. Ancient Ein Gedi was famous for its dates and balsam, a plant from which a costly perfume was produced. The town's irrigation system for bringing fresh water to the cultivated terraces is still visible today.
The reserve contains four springs, and a leisurely walk will take you to the first one. The hike gets more arduous as you continue, and seasoned hikers can enjoy the refreshing waterfalls and pools of all four. As you walk, keep a close eye out for ibex and groups of hyrax, which roam the reserve freely during the day. Many species of birds fly above the waterfalls and are supplemented by another 200 or so species during the migration seasons.
The stunning synagogue mosaic here from the third century contains a Judeo-Aramaic inscription warning inhabitants against "revealing the town's secret." What this secret is nobody knows, although many conjectures have been made.
A special treat awaits visitors in nearby Kibbutz Ein Gedi. A botanical garden contains over 900 species of plants from all over the world and many different types of cacti. The Ein Gedi Hotel offers a spa experience called "Sea of Spa," which takes advantage of the natural healing powers of the Dead Sea waters.
A trip to Ein Gedi can be combined with visits to Qumran, Masada and Ein Feshkha.