Ein Gedi

Geography, Geology & Climate

''The high mountains belong to the wild goats, the crags are a refuge for a hyrax (connies)'' Psalm 104:18

mountain goats at Ein Gedi
mountain goats at Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi is a nature reserve in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the Qumran Caves.


It is the largest oasis in Israel, situated in the Rain Shadow Desert. It is extremely hot and dry with only 10 rainy days in a year with only a total of 50 mm of precipitation.


Clouds from the Mediterranean Sea warm up when they reach the Dead Sea area and disappear. In summer, the temperatures here are very high and reach 40C / 104F.


At Ein Gedi, the water flows all the time which is why there is lots of greenery in area which also attracts wildlife. King Solomon of the past praised Ein Gedi in his poetic song:

"My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms in the vineyards of Ein Gedi" (Song of Songs 1:14).


The full territory of Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is over 1435 hectares (3546 acres). There are four springs that flow here year-round within deep canyons and create waterfalls and pools.  Two of the streams have names borrowed from the Bible. Ein David in the David Stream, Ein Aroogot in the Aroogot Stream. The remaining two are Shoolamit (Sulamith) and Ein Gedi.


The total flow of the springs makes more than 3 million cubic meters (659.907.744 gallons) per year. Maybe that is why one of the translations of the name Ein Gedi means the spring of luck. Imagine what a joy it brought to desert travelers!


Another translation is spring of the goats and indeed the area is safe haven for the mountain goats and ibex (wild goat with long ridged horns). Why is there so much water in this area of the desert? The answer lays in a special geological structure of the region. Layers of rock decline towards the Dead Sea in a region of Jerusalem mountains where there is a great deal of rain. The water penetrates the surface and flows further in the underground along the rock layers until it emerges with the great power where the Great Fault Scarp runs along the length of the Dead Sea. The whole process from penetration of rain water into the ground to flowing out from the springs takes a very short time which is why it is so clean and not saline. In winter, there are many flash floods in this area.


There is abundant vegetation here, with many plants that originated in the tropical Sudanese region of Africa, such as Maerua Classifier and Cordia Sinensis. There are also acacia trees: Acacia Raddiana, umbrella thorn acacia (Tortillas), Christ Thorn jujube and a very interesting tree the so called Sodom Apple (Calotropis Procera). 

Famous Bible Narratives of Ein Gedi

The first mention of Ein Gedi in the Bible is in Genesis by the name Hazaazon Tamar:

“And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezon Tamar” (Genesis 14:7). 

 David spares the life of King Saul at En Gedi:

“Now it happened, when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, ‘Take note! David is in the Wilderness of En Gedi.’ Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats. So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave).


Then the men of David said to him, ‘This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’  And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.


Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe. And he said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.’ So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way.


David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down.


And David said to Saul: “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Indeed David seeks your harm?  Look, this day your eyes have seen that the Lord delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it.


Let the Lord judge between you and me, and let the Lord avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A flea?


Therefore let the Lord be judge, and judge between you and me, and see and plead my case, and deliver me out of your hand.’” So it was, when David had finished speaking these words to Saul, that Saul said, ‘Is this your voice, my son David?’ And Saul lifted up his voice and wept.


Then he said to David: ‘You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil. And you have shown this day how you have dealt well with me; for when the Lord delivered me into your hand, you did not kill me. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely?


Therefore may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Therefore swear now to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s house.’ So David swore to Saul. And Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold” (I Samuel 24: 1-22).

A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah,

God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,

To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your loving-kindness is better than life,

My lips shall praise You.

Thus I will bless You while I live;

I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,

And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.


When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
 Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.

My soul follows close behind You;

Your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek my life, to destroy it,

Shall go into the lower parts of the earth.

They shall fall by the sword;

They shall be a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;

Everyone who swears by Him shall glory;
But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped"  (Psalm 63).

A few hundred years after the time of David, Ein Gedi was the place where Jehoshaphat, king of Judah and his people saw the destruction of the Moabite and Ammonite armies by the hand of God (see II Chronicles 20).