No tour of Israel can be complete without a visit to the Judean desert. Aside from climbing the famed fortress of Masada, you can actually float in the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, known for its highly mineralized water, which serves as a treatment center for many individuals suffering from skin ailments. All those visiting the Dead Sea basin must also visit the nearby Ein Gedi nature reserve.

The beauty and reclusiveness of Ein Gedi, which literally means spring of the young goat, has been known since biblical times. The most notable Biblical figure associated with the beauty of Ein Gedi is King David, who hid from King Saul in Ein Gedi’s natural reserve.

Scripture (Samuel I end of chapter 23 and chapter 24) relates the famed story regarding David cutting a slice from King Saul’s garment. While hiding in “the fortress of Ein Gedi, in a cave,” with his entourage from King Saul, who sought to kill David, King Saul entered the cave and became vulnerable to attack by David. Instead of killing the king, his pursuer, David merely sliced a piece from his garment. When King Saul left, David, the king’s son-in-law, ran after him, and called out, “My lord the king” and bowed. David related to the monarch how he could have killed him, but opted against it, and showed the king the portion from Saul’s skirt. David’s soliloquy brought King Saul to tears. The king even admitted that David was more of a man than he was, and predicted David’s eventual assumption of the throne of Israel. The king asked David to swear to him that when he became king that he would not destroy his offspring and terminate Saul’s family line. David swore, and Saul went home. Psalm 142 specifically refers to this encounter.

The Ein Gedi oasis sits at the mouth of the Dead Sea, and spreads over 14,000 dunams (3,500 acres), bursting with exotic wildlife, colorful geology and breathtaking waterfalls and springs. Two streams flow through Ein Gedi: Nahal David and Nahal Arugot. It’s interesting, but likely not a coincidence, that Ein Gedi shares the same Hebrew letters as Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). In 1971, the State of Israel declared Ein Gedi one of the most important nature reserves in Israel.

On March 20, 1949, corresponding with the 19th of Adar, the Israeli army captured Ein Gedi, which represented Israel’s final military operation in Israel’s War of Independence.

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