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    Posted May 12, 2015 by
    Ein Gedi, Israel
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    The Elusive Nubian Ibex and the Secret Waterfalls © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.com

    Ein Gedi is an oasis in the heart of the Judean Desert, in Israel. It is located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the Qumran Caves. The name Ein Gedi is composed of two Hebrew words: ein means spring and gdi means baby (kid) - goat. Ein Gedi thus means "the spring of the baby goat".

    Ein Gedi was inhabited starting from the Chalcolithic period, and a temple from that period was excavated there.
    In Joshua 15:62, Ein Gedi is enumerated among the cities of the Tribe of Judah in the desert Betharaba, but Ezekiel 47:10 shows that it was also a fisherman's town. Later, King David hides in the desert of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-2) and King Saul seeks him " And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi […] even upon the most craggy rocks, which are accessible only to wild goats" (1 Samuel 24:2).

    The Song of Songs (Songs 1:14) speaks of the "vineyards of En Gedi". The words of Ecclesiasticus 24:18, "I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades", may perhaps be understood of the palm trees of Ein Gedi. The indigenous Jewish town of Ein Gedi was an important source of balsam for the Greco-Roman world until its destruction by Byzantine emperor Justinian as part of his persecution of the Jews in his realm.

    According to the Miholjanec legend, Stephen V of Hungary had in front of his tent a golden plate with the inscription: "Attila, the son of Bendeuci, grandson of the great Nimrod, born at Ein Gedi: By the Grace of God King of the Huns, Medes, Goths, Dacians, the horrors of the world and the scourge of God."

    According to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, the Sicarii, who fought the Romans until their defeat and mass suicide at the Siege of Masada, plundered local villages including En Gedi. At En Gedi, they drove out the defenders, and killed over seven hundred women and children who could not run away. Prof Mazar suggested that Gedi is based on "Gedud" which means "many", and it also may translate Ein Gedi into "many springs" - based on the four springs of the site, which give it life in this dry area.

    Ein Gedi Natural Park was declared in 1971 and is one of the most important reserves in Israel. The elevation of the land ranges from the level of the Dead Sea at 423 meters (1,388 ft) below sea level to the plateau of the Judean Desert at 200 meters above sea level. Ein Gedi nature reserve includes two spring-fed streams with flowing water year-round: Nahal David and Nahal Arugot, which in Hebrew means the "flower beds". Nahal Arugot is one of the few canyons in the Judean Desert with water all year round and it was one of the sources of water to the ancient site of Ein Gedi. The path along the canyon alters between wet and dry, leading to The Hidden Waterfall. This is the only place where it is allowed to eat and bath in the pool, under the waterfall, which is almost irresistible. From the high cliffs the green river bed, a spectacular view displays. The reserve is a sanctuary for many types of plant, bird and mammal species. Among those I photographed the elusive and graceful Nubian ibex (the Biblical heroine Yael's name means "Ibex" in Hebrew) in the epic landscape where it lives.
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