Outdoor The Israeli Experience Magazine

Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

For the children await here waterfall pools which will keep them occupied for a long time, lovers can enjoy a romantic cave and those who like mysticism will find here an Aramaic curse. A trip for everyone at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
by: Eyal Shapira   |   17.08.2011

People who are too calculated and self-conscious have natural barriers, which do not allow them to give themselves in to pure pleasure. If you put them on the top of a sand dune, for example, they will look around with a smile and compliment the magnificent view. They will not think even for a moment to roll down from it in a blast. These repressed people deny themselves the amazing things that nature has to offer, such as the water pools and waterfalls of the David Stream which is in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. We sat for a long time at the first pool, with its waterfall which just demands getting underneath it, and we sat for another long while at the second pool, which is even bigger. And during all that time many people passed by us walking leisurely on the official trail, looked at us with a forgiving smile, taking pictures and moving on. This is what they came all this way for: to look at a postcard and not go into it.

On the other hand (and there is always "the other hand”) it is well that there are people like this. Why? For the simple reason that because of them it will be less crowded for you under the waterfall. But we will get to the waterfall soon. We sure will.

Cliffs and sighs

Tour guides tend to start the trail with lookouts over the view and explanations of every dot seen. So for now we will save you from that, but in any event, it is interesting to know that the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, which touches on the one side the Judean Desert and on the other the Dead Sea, is situated 400 meters below sea level. This means that it has a conspicuous advantage in regard to its landscape- it features noticeable differences in heights, in an area that is not too big (about 14,000 dunams). What does that mean? Mainly that you can find here breathtaking waterfalls, but also canyons, cliffs and other impressive natural features.
Because the springs of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve flow all year round, there is always water in the two large streams that pass in it: the David and Arugot Streams. This water, by the way, arrives from the Judean Mountains. Rain water permeates the mountain and makes its way slowly but surely inside the rock and in the ground and bursts out joyfully here at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. On its way along the stream banks the water gives life to a variety of plants- from acacia and jujube to reed and bulrush. All this goodness creates in the heart of the desert great spots of green and blue.
And all this also means that not only many travelers come here all year round, but also many species of animals. Two of the more prominent species of animals that come here, which have already almost become the symbols of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve (especially due to the fact that they have somewhat gotten used to the presence of travelers here), are the ibex and hyrax.
It is true that ibexes like cliffs, but many of them walk along the trails of the reserve and pose for the cameras. And if you meet a male ibex (the one with the big horns) while it dances around in a strange and awkward manner, than it must be the mating season (September through November). Because males, whether in nature or in the city, will always try to show off in order to impress the opposite sex. And as mentioned before, hyraxes are also abundant here, lying around in the sun on a piece of rock or just watching you crookedly as you invade their realm.

A waterfall for children and a romantic cave for lovers

At the entrance to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve you will receive a detailed map with a few suggestions of routes. The most popular among them is David Stream, especially as it is easier for walking. But one can combine, change and personalize. As long as you do not leave the marked trails, you can hop between the different corners of Ein Gedi’s Nature Reserve. Of course the various trails differ in length and difficulty levels.
The most classic one (and also the laziest one) is the lower David Stream trail. You walk a little among acacia trees, see high cliffs and dip in the pleasant water pool of the lower David waterfall. If you are here with small children and/or in the midst of summer, this is the trail for you. Please note that there has not yet been born the person who can pluck children from a waterfall pool, so that it is worth while allocating a long while to this trail.
Those who want to sweat a little can go all the way to the upper David Stream. This trail is suitable for the cooler seasons (or very early hours of the day during the summer). Beyond the fact that you get to the Ein Gedi spring itself, which is covered by a group of trees, this trail includes one of the most beautiful places in all of the geographical area that surrounds you: the Dodim Cave. This is not just another cave but a very romantic one which is located at the top of the David Stream, isolated from the outside world. Only you, the cool darkness, the many ferns and the green moss, and tiny flows of water that come out of the cave’s walls. There is nothing else quite like it. And if in the above mentioned case, no person were born yet who can manage pulling away children from a waterfall pool, then in this case no person were born yet who will manage to pull away a couple in love from this cave.
Another trail passes in the Arugot Stream. It includes a walk in a wild and photogenic canyon and reaches the wonderful "hidden waterfall”. On busy days it is not really hidden, but it is certainly wonderful, especially after a long walk in the desert.
These are only three optional trails, but the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, as mentioned above, offers many other trails. Did we already say personalization?

Ancient curse

Incidentally, if you still have energy left at the end of the trail, it is worth while to pay a visit to the remains of the ancient synagogue of Ein Gedi, which is located in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. This synagogue, which was active in the Mishnah and Talmud period and was destroyed in the 6th century CE, was discovered completely by chance during agricultural development works that took place here about 50 years ago. Today one can walk here along an impressive mosaic floor, on which, incidentally, a mysterious curse in Aramaic was inscribed. According to this curse, whoever reveals the secret will be punished. This secret probably refers to the production process of the famous perfume that was made out of the persimmon plant (by the way, there is no connection to the persimmon of today). This perfume was sold to the wealthy of the Roman Empire and it was extremely expensive. Even today, ages later, no one really knows what this perfume smelled like and exactly which plant was it produced from. It seems that the old curse was successful.

Arrival and opening hours: from road number 90 according to the signs to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, which is located a few hundreds of meters to the north of the entrance to kibbutz Ein Gedi. The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is open in the summer from 8 am – 5 pm and in the winter until 4 pm. Entrance is allowed until an hour before closing time. There is an entrance fee.
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