En Gedi Nature Reserve

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En Gedi is the biggest oasis in Israel. It has springs and waterfalls, and flowing brooks at the foot of the cliffs, home to ibexes and rock hyraxes.

Main points of interest

  • David Waterfall – a year-round waterfall along the course of the David Stream, to which there is access by a hiking trail, for all the family.
  • Arugot Stream –a hiking trail for good walkers runs along the length of the stream, which flows all year round, to the Hidden Waterfall and the pools at the head of the stream.
  • En Gedi Spring – rises in the mountainside, and sustains abundant vegetation. By the spring are the remains of an ancient flour mill.
  • Dudim Cave – a small and intimate cave at the head of the David Waterfall.
  • The Chalcolithic temple – the ruins of an ancient temple, close to En Gedi Spring. The temple is attributed to the Chalcolithic period (over 5,000 years ago), and attracted the faithful from the surrounding area.
  • The Dry Canyon – a section of the David Stream (above the spring) in which there are depressions that fill up after the floods, and an impressive lookout  - the Window Waterfall. For experienced hikers only.
  • En Gedi Ascent – 5 steep trails climbing up from the En Gedi oasis to the Judean Desert plateau: Mt Yishay Ascent, En Gedi Ascent (an ancient path that some consider to be the Tsits Ascent mentioned in II Chronicles 20:16), the Bney Ha'Moshavim Ascent, the Essene Ascent (an ancient Roman path), and Tsruya Ascent. All are for experienced hikers only, and not for hiking during the summer or on very hot days.
  • Tel Goren – the remains of the ancient settlement at En Gedi. The mound was found to contain the remains of settlement from the Iron Age (the Biblical period), the Persian period, the Hellenistic period, and the Roman period.
  • Monument commemorating the seven Hashomer Ha'Tsair cadets and the Palmach fighter who fell in the bonfire disaster during a hike to Masada at the time of the British Mandate.

    Lookout points

    There are many lookout points in the nature reserve, with views of the Dead Sea, the En Gedi oasis, and the desert plateau. The majority of the lookout points appear along the trails ascending the He'etekim Cliff. Below are just a few of them:
  • Mt Yishay – the northernmost lookout point in the nature reserve. Until the Six Day War, there was an IDF post here, controlling the Green Line to the north of En Gedi. The path to the lookout point starts at En Gedi Field School, and it is a very difficult ascent.
  • The peak of the En Gedi Ascent – a lookout point between David Stream and Arugot Stream at the top of an ancient ascent – part of the trail connecting En Gedi to the desert plateau on the way to Bethlehem.
  • Mt Tsruya – the southernmost lookout point in the nature reserve, above Kibbutz En Gedi and Arugot Stream.

Identity card


En Gedi Nature Reserve, in the heart of the Judean Desert, extends along the He'etekim Cliff next to and west of Kibbutz En Gedi, and covers an area of 14,350 dunams. It includes the ravines of the David and Arugot streams (which flow through the reserve all year round), and the lofty cliffs between them. There are four springs in this area, gushing throughout the year, and sustaining a unique oasis.


Reasons for declaration:

En Gedi oasis is the largest oasis in Israel. Living around the brooks and in the abundant vegetation is a large herd of ibex, and this is their main refuge in Israel. Until the beginning of the 2000s, the reserve also supported a small population of leopards. There are also rare plants in the nature reserve, which are in danger of extinction in Israel, in particular arid-tropical plants such as the cordia and the Maerua crassifolia.

Geographic location

The nature reserve extends along the He'etekim Cliff in the heart of the Judean Desert, close to Road 90, some 50 km south of Almog Junction and 60 km from the town of Arad.

 

​Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority


The beauty of En Gedi has long made it a focus of attraction for visitors. In order to reduce the impact of the mass of visitors on the nature reserve, a network of trails was arranged, and an entrance fee began to be charged back in the 1970. In this way, some areas have been left undisturbed for the flora and fauna.

To enable water to flow through the reserve and supply water for people's use, an arrangement has been signed in recent years with Kibbutz En Gedi, which makes use of part of the water from the springs.

Actions have been taken in the nature reserve to rehabilitate and conserve the vegetation of the En Gedi hillside, as a unique habitat in the oasis.

Wildlife


The Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana), which also stars in the Nature and Parks Authority emblem, is adapted to living in craggy and rocky areas. The reserve is home to one of the largest herds of ibex in the country. Also very noticeable here, in addition to the ibex, is the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis). Other mammals, such as foxes, wolves and bats, are active at night, and 16 species of bat have been documented in the reserve. Birds of prey such as the vulture (Gyps) nest in the cliffs. A very common bird is the Tristram's starling (Onychognathus tristramii) – a medium-sized member of the starling family, recognizable by its black color and the orange patches on its wings. It is named for Henry Baker Tristram, the British priest and zoologist who discovered this species. Also noteworthy are the fan-tailed raven (Corvus rhipidurus), the blackstart (Cercomela melanura) and the sand partridge (Ammoperdix heyi). Among the reptiles is a rare and poisonous snake that it is hard to meet – the Israeli burrowing asp  (Atractaspis engaddensis). Other snakes living in the area are the echis (Echis) and the braid snake (Coluber rhodorachis). The abundance of water in the nature reserve also supports populations of marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus), river crabs (Potamon potamios), gastropods such as the melanopsis (Melanopsis praemorsa), and dragonflies (Anisoptera). Among the insects living in the reserve, it is worth mentioning the weaver ant (Polyrhachis simplex), which builds nesting colonies in the rocks along Arugot Stream.

 

Flora


Many of the plants in the nature reserve are of Sudanese origin, that is, arid-tropical. Examples are the Christ's thorn jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi), the umbrella thorn acacia (Acacia Tortilis),  the twisted acacia (Acacia raddiana), the wispy-needled yasar tree (Moringa peregrina), the toothbrush tree (Salvadora persica), the desert date (Balanites aegyptiaca), and the Sodom's apple milkweed (Calotropis procera), while others are typical of East African savanna.

Growing by the water are the Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides), brook willow (Salix acmophylla), and Euphrates poplar (Populus euphratica), as well as tall canes of giant reed (Arundo donax), elephant grass (Saccharum ravennae), common reeds (Phragmites australis), and others. Naturally it is impossible to ignore the abundance of maidenhead ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) growing in the flowing rivulets. On the arid slopes are the bushy bean caper (Zygophyllum dumosum) and the Gymnocarpos decander.

Archaeology and history


The abundance of water at En Gedi has made human settlement possible since early times, especially settlements that engaged in growing agricultural crops based on irrigation systems. In the past, the area irrigated by spring water was some 1,100 dunams, as compared with only 500 dunams today that are cultivated by Kibbutz En Gedi using modern methods.

The most well-known ancient crop grown at En Gedi was the Biblical persimmon, Commiphora gileadensis, an ancient fragrance plant known as Bossem (not to be confused with the fruit known as persimmon today), which gained a wide reputation. Another plant that stood out here was the henna plant, mentioned in Song of Songs: "My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi"

The first settlement at En Gedi appears to have been in the Chalcolithic period, some 5,000 years ago. At this time, there was a major temple here, attracting pilgrims from far and wide. No contemporaneous remains of permanent settlement were found around the temple, but it is estimated that the trove of copper vessels from this period found in the Treasure Cave in Mishmar Stream belonged to those using the temple.

En Gedi is mentioned a number of times in the Bible. It is one of the towns of the tribe of Judah in the desert, and is where David concealed himself when he fled from King Saul in around 1000 BCE (after whom the David Stream is named). The archaeological documentation of the Jewish settlement at the site dates to a later period, the 7th century BCE. The Jewish settlement existed (with breaks) for over a thousand years,  until its destruction in the 6th century CE.

The early settlement at En Gedi is at Tel Goren. Its inhabitants made use of the spring water for irrigated farming, and the main agricultural crops in the area were dates ("Hazazon-tamar, that is, En Gedi", II Chronicles 20:2) and persimmon fragrance.

En Gedi was destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt in the Persian period, abandoned and renewed again in Hasmonean times, after which there was a Jewish settlement for some 700 years. The inhabitants developed intensive farming methods, built water storage pools and aqueducts, and built a fortress looking over Arugot Stream. There was an estate of the Hasmonean royal house here, which was then leased to King Herod, who turned it into a Roman imperial estate. The residents of En Gedi took part in the Great Revolt and the Bar Kochba revolt, and were fatally harmed by Zealot incursions into the settlement. A Roman military camp was set up alongside the settlement, to protect the supply of persimmon. In the 3rd century CE the settlement was rebuilt, and a synagogue was built, in which there is an inscription enjoining the residents not to reveal the secrets of the town to strangers. It is usually assumed that this secret was the process of growing the persimmon and producing the persimmon oil. En Gedi was destroyed in the mid-6th century CE, and in the Middle Ages (13th – 14th centuries) a small village was established here, with a flour mill. In recent generations there has only been seasonal settlement here by Bedouins of the Rashaida tribe.

In the 1947 Partition Plan, En Gedi was included in the Jewish state, and in March 1949 the area was captured by the Alexandroni Division. The Nahal settlement of En Gedi was established in 1953, and it became a civilian settlement three years later. 

 

Geology and geomorphology


The nature reserve encompasses the He'etekim Cliff and its foothills. The cliff was formed as a result of the formation of the Dead Sea Valley, and the rock surface belongs to the Havurat Yehuda formation of the Cenomanian and Turonian ages (90 – 100 million years ago). On the desert plateau at the top of the cliff, geological formations of mainly dolomite rock are revealed, and at its feet the Hatzera formation, which includes a number of strata, among them dolomite, chalk, and marl. On the clifftop and in the foothills other geological layers appear, some of them hard (limestone and dolomite), some soft (chalk, marl and clay). Their thickness varies from 50 – 140 cm. Of note is the Tsafit deposit, made of limestone, in which the springs of the nature reserve arise, and at its feet, the En Yorke'am deposit, made of chalk and clay, in which the groundwater is collected.

The topological difference in heights in the reserve is some 600 m, from the top of Mt Yishay (190 m above sea level) to the shores of the Dead Sea (430 m below sea level) – over a distance of less than 2 km as the crow flies. Because of the steep inclines, there are huge rockfalls at the foot of the cliffs. They stand out in the landscape of the nature reserve, and even today threaten the ancient paths that climb to the top of the cliff.

 

Hydrology


There are two year-round streams in the nature reserve: David Stream (relatively short, draining an area of some 18 km2), and the larger Arugot Stream (40 km in length, draining an area of 200 km2 in Mt Hebron and the Judean Desert plateau). Four small springs rise in the nature reserve: En David (in David Stream), En Arugot (in Arugot Stream), En Shlomit, and En Gedi spring on the hillside between the two streams. Their total output is around 3 million m3 per year, and the source of this water is the rainfall in the Judean Hills, which seeps into the groundwater and gushes up in the area of the nature reserve.

​​How to get there

Along Road 90 (Dead Sea), approx. 1 km north of Kibbutz En Gedi.

Length of visit: An hour and a half – full day

 

Best season: Spring, fall, winter

 

Don't miss: Walking along David Stream to the waterfall

 

Other attractions:

  • Kiosk
  • Souvenir shop 

Opening hours

* Last entry is one hour before closing time

 

Summer:

Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm

Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm 

 

Winter:

Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm
Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm

In winter – last entry to David Stream is 3 pm

Last entry to Arugot Stream is 2 pm

Visitors must exit the nature reserve by 4 pm, for reasons of nature conservation

On the eve of New Year, the eve of the Day of Atonement, and Passover eve: 8 am – 1 pm 

 

Contact us

Telephone:  08-6584285

Fax: 08-6520228

 

Entrance fee

 Adult – NIS 28, child – NIS 14

Group (over 30): Adult - NIS 23, child - NIS 13

Student- NIS 24

 

Please note!  There is a single entrance fee for Arugot Stream and David Stream – your ticket gives entry to  David Stream, Arugot Stream and the synagogue, on the same day only.

 

For the ancient synagogue only:

Individuals:  Adult- NIS 14, child- NIS 7

Groups (over 30):  Adult - NIS 13, child - NIS 6

Students: NIS 12

Entry for dogs

No entry for dogs

Notes:

During the summer (June – November), check whether it is possible to take the ascent paths in the reserve: Yishay Ascent, En Gedi Ascent, Bney Ha'Moshavim Ascent, Essene Ascent and Tsruya Ascent

 Further information

pdfClick here for site pamphlet  


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

     In the En Gedi Nature Reserve adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    The main entrance to the site

    • Parking
    • entrance area
    • visitor service station
    • accessible restroom

    Nahal David Stream

    A section of the Nahal David Reserve includes:

    • wheelchair accessible trails
    • resting and observation areas
    • an audio station
    • an observation point with a view of the "Olympic" pool waterfall

     The trail is about half a kilometer long, and is designed and built to blend with the desert view. People can enjoy resting under the shade of acacia trees with ibexes and hyraxes nearby.

    Synagogue

    • The parking at the gate
    • movement through the archeological site on foot on well-paved paths
    • A shaded accessible path to the antiquities for people with mobility impairments and accessible observation points
    • a service station for visitors
    • picnic areas
    • accessible restrooms
    • all reachable via paved paths

    We recommend that people with mobility impairments visit with a companion.

     

    Important Information: Service animals are not permitted in the En Gedi Nature Reserve. Animals may be left in a cage at the reserve entrance for the duration of the visit.


    31.466356,35.39439
    En Gedi