Photo Essay: An oasis awaits

The botanical garden in Ein Gedi is a green gem in an arid desert

Ein Gedi 521 (photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Ein Gedi 521
(photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Here’s another reason to visit the lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea valley stretches approximately 400 meters below sea level. This arid region contains the magnificent Dead Sea and is home to year-round high temperatures.
On the west side of Highway 90 you can see some date orchards, but mainly dominating the area are the mountains of the Judean Desert and the large wadis that cut between them. Turn into Kibbutz Ein Gedi to enjoy a unique gem of the Dead Sea valley, the wondrous botanical garden. In the middle of the brown desert, this green gem is sure to please.
Kibbutz Ein Gedi was established in 1956, on the edge of the Arugot Canyon. Three years later, the kibbutz was relocated to a desolate hill nearby.
Sixty years on, you will be amazed by walking around the kibbutz, for it will feel as if you were in the midst of a tropical forest near the equator.
In 1960, kibbutz members started to develop the vegetation around the kibbutz. As new structures were added to the growing community, they were always planning and designing the accompanying foliage. They were also attempting to integrate every type of plant from anywhere around the globe. Soon they found that the plants in Ein Gedi were growing even better than in their countries of origin. In some cases, the plants grew 10 times faster than in their home habitat.
It is this fact that makes a 50-year-old Ein Gedi baobab tree look like a few-hundred-year-old tree in its native Africa. The same thing happens to almost every transplanted species in the local conditions at Kibbutz Ein Gedi. The secret ingredient of this multiple prize-winning botanical garden is its mineral-rich soil and the hot summers and mild winters. These provide the plants with optimal growing conditions. In addition, lots of sunshine and clean air boost their growth.
The Ein Gedi Botanical Garden has more than 1,000 species from all over the world with representatives from each of the five continents, not to mention the local species, some of which are referred to in ancient Jewish texts. Among them you can find palm trees, cycads, delonix, adenium and ficus. They come in all shapes and sizes, giant trees, a medium-sized bushes and low-growing herbs.
Whatever you find in the Ein Gedi Botanical Garden, it is green, thick, healthy and blooming.
There are two ways to explore the garden.
An organized tour points out all the unique plants, while staying overnight and walking through the kibbutz allows you to explore the garden at any hour of the day or night. Of course, a combination of the two is ideal. You can spend a night or two in the lovely kibbutz hotel, which extends the experience of this Garden of Eden in the middle of the desert.
You will discover that the massive amount of vegetation has created a cool microclimate in one of the hottest places in Israel. This microclimate contributes to sustaining the beauty of the botanical garden and provides shade and cooler air throughout the kibbutz.
And you don’t have to leave the kibbutz to dip into the waters of the Dead Sea. A pool filled with Dead Sea water is just one of the treats at the new spa on the kibbutz. Located on the mountainside with a view to the sea, the spa is another place to experience at Ein Gedi in addition to the delightful botanical garden.