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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Ein Gedi, National Park in Israel


Ein Gedi is an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, some 400 meters below sea level.
Right near the Dead Sea is the beautiful oasis of  Ein Gedi, mentioned in Shir Ha’Shirim. This is the place where Dovid Ha’melech hid from Shaul Ha’melech. King Shaul along with an army of 3,000 men gave chase to Dovid, who was hiding in the caves of Ein Gedi.
Here one sees large boulders and caves where antelopes roam. The area is filled with gushing falls and dense growth with many caves in which one can easily hide without being discovered. As Shaul entered into one of these caves, he didn’t realize that Dovid and his men were hiding at the other end of this very cave and could easily have killled him. However, despite the opportunity to kill Shaul, Dovid would not dare harm Hashem’s anointed. Instead, he cut off the edge of the king’s garment as proof that he had absolutely no intention of harming him.
Alongside the Yam Ha’melech one also sees tall mountains with many caves in which Jews hid during Roman times. It was in one of these caves, called the Kumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. These are on display in the Israel museum (in Yerushalayim) in the building called The Shrine of the Book.
Ein Gedi is an oasis located west of the Dead Sea, close to Masada and the caves of Qumran.
Ein Gedi national park and nature reserve was parkfounded in 1972 and is one of the most important reserves in Israel. The park is situated on the eastern border of the Judean Desert, on the Dead Sea coast, and covers an area of 6,250 acres. The elevation of the land ranges from the level of the Dead Sea at 418 meters below sea level to the plateau of the Judean Desert at 200 meters above sea level.
Ein Gedi National Park includes two spring-fed streams with flowing water year-round: Nachal David (David Stream) and Nachal Arugot (Arugot Stream). Two other springs, the Shulamit and Ein Gedi springs, also flow in the reserve. Together, the springs generate approximately 3,000 000 m3 of water per year. Much of the water is used for agriculture or is bottled for consumption.

The park is a sanctuary for many types of plant, bird and animal species. The vegetation includes plants and trees from the Tropical, Desert, Mediterranean and Steppian regions, such as Sodom apple, acacia, jujube and poplar. The many species of resident birds are supplemented by over 200 additional species during the migration periods in the spring and fall. Mammal species include the ibex and the hyrax.

In the summer of 2005, nearly two-thirds of the oasis burned to the ground after a tourist dropped a lit cigarette onto the park grounds.

En-Gedi is actually the name of a spring which flows from a height of 656 feet above the Dead Sea. In the Bible, the wasteland near the spring where David sought refuge from Saul is called ’’the wilderness of En-Gedi’’ and the enclosed camps at the top of the mountains, the ’’strongholds of En-Gedi’’.

In the period before the Bar Kokhba War (132—135), the Jewish town of En-Gedi was imperial property and Roman garrison troops were stationed there. But in the time of Bar Kokhba, it was under control, and was one of his military and administrative centers. In the Roman-Byzantine period, the settlement of En-Gedi is mentioned by the Church Fathers; Eusebius describes it as a very large Jewish village. En-Gedi was then famous for its fine dates and rare spices.

Excavations in 1970 brought to light the remains of a Jewish community in the Byzantine period. Their synagogue had a beautiful mosaic floor depicting peacocks eating grapes, and the words ’’Peace on Israel’’, as well as a unique inscription consisting of 18 lines, part of which calls down a curse on ’’anyone causing a controversy between a man and his fellows or who slanders his friends before the gentiles or steals the property of his friends, or anyone revealing the secret of the town to the gentiles...’’ (According to one authority, it was designed against those revealing the secrets of the balsam industry.) A seven-branched menorah of bronze and more than 5,000 coins (found in the synagogue’s cash box near the Ark) were also uncovered.

In 1953 a kibbutz was established nearby and took the name En-Gedi. Its primary function was initially defense; but it also successfully developed farming methods adapted to the local conditions of a hot desert climate and an abundance of fresh water from the En-Gedi Springs. An area surrounding the Springs has been declared a nature reserve. A field school of the Society for the Preservation of Nature, a youth hostel and a recreation home are all situated there.

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