En Gedi (also called Ein Gedi) is a fresh, green spot teeming with life on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Since prehistoric times, its freshwater springs have offered life and refreshment in a hot, rugged, brown region. Among its biblical mentions:
- Chedorlaomer, the king who defeated Sodom and captured Abraham’s nephew Lot, previously defeated an Amorite settlement at En Gedi [called Hazazon-tamar]. (Genesis 14)
- It was alloted as territory for the tribe of Judah – David’s tribe. (Joshua 15)
- David hid for a while in “the strongholds of En Gedi” when King Saul was hunting him. (1 Samuel 23:29)
- An En Gedi cave was the location of a famed encounter between David and King Saul in 1 Samuel 24. Saul, looking to “relieve himself” while hunting David, happened to use the very cave where David and his men were hiding. David snuck up to Saul and cut off a corner of his royal robe. Afterward, when David confronted the king and proclaimed his innocence, Saul lamented his own sin and departed. (The exact location of this cave is unknown. Textual clues suggest it was in the lower parts En Gedi. See 1 Sam. 24:2 – 3a, 22)
Visitors to the National Park are virtually guaranteed to see wildlife up close. Common animals include the Ibex (a type of mountain goat) and the Hyrax (“rock badger”). Both of these animals are mentioned in the Bible.
Tips for visitors:
- If you travel to Israel, consider spending one or two nights by the Dead Sea. There is a clean, safe hostel near the highway on the north side of En Gedi. For those with a little more money to spend, the kibbutz has a nice hotel on its grounds. Both have food options available.
- One can hike throughout the area. Trails are well marked and are assigned difficulty levels, along with estimated time for completion. For the National Park with its waterfalls, allow 1-1/2 or 2 hours to leisurely hike up, swim, take photos and return to the bottom. To get to a prehistoric temple with a spectacular Dead Sea view, allow several more hours’ time.
- For food options away from the hotel/hostel, there is a snack bar at the National Park entrance. Go across the highway toward the Dead Sea beach for restaurant options.