Friday, August 26, 2011
Ein Gedi: One of the Most Beautiful Places in the World
Besides the wonderful views and great air of Ein Gedi, one can also learn about the history of the Jewish community in the area.
Ein Gedi is located in the center of the Dead Sea and at the foot of the cliffs of the Judean desert. One of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, Ein Gedi has many advantages: pollution-free air, filtered sunlight, and a high concentration of oxygen saturated with bromine.
Adjacent to Kibbutz Ein Gedi are nature reserves Nahal David, Nahal Arugot, the Ein Gedi Hot Springs and much more. When touring the area, one can enjoy the local botanical gardens, the desert which kisses the sea, and the local ancient synagogue. From between the branches of the palm trees one can stare at the Dead Sea in all its glory.
The ancient synagogue at Ein Gedi tells the story of the Jewish settlement near the Dead Sea during the period of the Mishna. The synagogue, which was used by the residents of the local community at Ein Gedi, was discovered by chance by a farmer from Kibbutz Ein Gedi named Sefi Porat. Sefi Porat, who was an amateur archaeologist, plowed land located about 300 meters northeast of Tel Goren. While plowing, Porat noticed pieces of mosaic which began to emerge from the ground.
Subsequent excavations in the area revealed a number of synagogues from the Talmudic period, the oldest being a trapezoid building. On that synagogue’s north wall, which faces Jerusalem, two openings were found: one in its center and one near its northeast corner. The openings were prepared such that the entrance was from the north, as was traditional in communities in the south whose openings were to the north toward Jerusalem, while northern communities had openings to the south toward Jerusalem.
At first, the ark of the synagogue was placed on a device with wheels in order to move it around the hall, but later another wall facing north was built, and the ark was permanently placed near the wall. Before the ark is a platform on which one of the notables of the community likely sat. The synagogue’s floor is a mosaic made up of black, white, reddish pink, red, brown, yellow and bluish gray tiles. Near the edge of the bimah, the mosaic is decorated with three seven-branched lamps.
The synagogue was destroyed in a large fire that broke out in it and rendered it unusable as a place of worship. Amidst the wreckage of the fire and the ruins, a seven-branched bronze menorah was found, the width of which is about 22 cm and the height of which is about 15 cm. Its base was probably made out of wood likely burned during the fire. Also discovered was a hoard of bronze coins, some of which were hidden in a cloth bundle in the yard of a nearby house.
The community of Ein Gedi was an open community that was not surrounded by a wall and it can be seen that the houses were moved at some point along the eastern line of the community, and a makeshift wall was built, probably to protect residents from attacks by looters.