5 Wet-Walks for the Shavuot Holiday

Avishag Eylon |

Of all the Shavuot traditions, the ones I practice most meticulously are the water festivities. With all due respect to cheeses (and I have plenty of respect for cheese Bourekas), nothing compares to the pleasure of finding myself in the middle of the desert, with endless scenery before me – and my feet in the water.

In order not to leave you any escape route, I have gathered together some recommendations for water trips throughout the Dead Sea Land. Trips best suited to those who need a good hike before bathing their feet. Those who, as long are they are in nature, feel that they are on a trip, whether it’s for the adventurer, or for the family, for the romantics among us, or for those who simply want a place to brew their coffee in the Great Outdoors.

Grab your bathing suit – we’re on our way!

Nahal Tze’elim Photograph: Avishag Eylon

Water-sites – Birkat Na’ama (Nahal Tze’elim)
Nahal Tze’elim is one of the most beautiful streams in the Judean Desert, but it is undoubtedly a stream for serious hikers, who achieve the right to take a dip in its water only after a lot of walking, sweating and sometimes even shedding tears. We began our trip by walking to the beautiful Birkat Zafira, from where we descended into the stream and began to walk towards Birkat Na’ama. Birkat Na’ama may be less famous and less dramatic than its big sister, Birkat Zafira, but it is no less beautiful and surprising. Imagine standing on a cliff and looking down below to a perfect green circle of cool water, hugged by high stone walls. How lovely! You’ll quickly forget that you still have plenty of walking ahead of you.
Departure Point: Birkat Zafira Parking Lot (near Kfar Hanokdim)
End Point: Tze’elim Night Parking Lot
Logistics: The route is not circular, so a few quick car-jumps are required along the way. You can, of course, walk the route directly, there and back again, ending up in Birkat Zafira car park.
Difficulty Level: Combat fitness-level!
Trail Map: Number 11 – South Judean Desert

Water-sites – Birkat Na’ama (Nahal Tze’elim) Photograph: Avishag Eylon

The Family Route – Einot Tzukim (Ein Feshkha) Nature Reserve
The Judean Desert, despite its desert-area, provides quite a few places for family water trips. Those where even the little children can walk easily, and their parents and grandparents also (in our case, the grandparents are the fittest of all!). But apart from easy walking, the Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve also provides a picnic corner, a pool and all sorts of pleasant attractions that make the walking even more interesting. You wanted donkeys in the middle of the desert? You have them! How about an old watchtower by a pool? You have that too! And, of course, the climax – the hidden nature reserve. The very name of the place will make each child surge forward and discover the secrets of the reserve. In between, you’ll find beautiful little creeks, serene pools and magical corners that will provide great photos for the adolescents’ Instagram. This place will keep all ages happy.
Departure and Finishing Point: Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve Car Park
Logistics: Deciding what to put in your sandwich
Difficulty Level: Me, after sitting on the sofa throughout Corona
Trail Map: Number 8 – Northern Judean Desert & Dead Sea

Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve (Ein Feshkha). Photograph: Avishag Eylon

The Photogenic Route – Gev Halon Waterfall
Desert and water are a combination that always takes a wonderful picture, but Gev Halon takes it to the extreme, with a perfect combination of bluish-greenish water surrounded by a stone cave that creates a window onto a beautiful open landscape, reaching as far as the Dead Sea and the Moab Mountains. Imagine this picture in your mind for a moment, and you’ll understand that this is, indeed, a spot that’s difficult to compete with. In fact, you really have to struggle to get a bad photo out here. Even if you just take a quick amateur scenic snap, it will come out spectacularly. Add a person in the frame, just standing there contemplating the view, and it will become even more interesting. If that person just happens to be doing a hand-stand or making some other interesting move, you’ll be able to sit back and count the ‘likes’ that you’ll receive on social media! Getting there requires slightly strenuous walking on the ascent, but that only makes the reward at the end of the trail even more worthwhile and satisfying. Shavuot is a great time to walk here, when the pool is still full of water and it’s hot enough to take a quick dip, but not too hot because, nonetheless, the ascent is a little challenging.
Departure & Finishing Point: Ein-Gedi Field School
Logistics: A mobile phone with enough storage for all the photos
Difficulty Level: TABATA training-level (short but highly-intensive).
Trail Map: Number 8 – Northern Judean Desert

Gev Halon. Photograph: Gil Caspi

A Minute from the Car – Ein Plutit (the hidden spring)
Maybe I exaggerated. Half-a-minute tops! Ein Plutit is the perfect place for those who want to dip their feet in the water without having to walk beforehand. A small deviation from the road leads to Neot HaKikar and Ein Tamar – just a few short steps – and you’re there. Ein Plutit is a surprising place. The location at the side of the road, in the middle of the desert, offers no hint of what you’re about to discover. A small pond, bluish andcool, around which palm trees provide shade and also a sense of complete detachment from what’s going on around you. To complete the atmosphere, a lovely wooden bridge has been built and you can just sit back, cool your feet, listen to nature and imagine you’re on another planet.
Departure and Finishing Point: From Route 90 turn towards the Moshavs of Kikar Sodom, and drive for 6 kms. until you see, on the left side, a small, unpaved area with signs.
Logistics: A reliable coffee kit.
Difficulty Level: Non-existent
Trail Map: Number 14 – Northern Arava and Eastern Negev

Ein Plutit Photograph: Gil Caspi

The Romantic Route – Dodim Cave
It’s amazing how many people make it all the way to the Ein-Gedi Spring, and then miss a few more minutes’ walk that will lead them to the magic cave – Dodim Cave. What makes this the perfect romantic trip is just that – the isolation of the spot. In order to reach it, you have to deviate from the main track and descend, with the help of iron handholds fixed into the stone walls. It’s actually much less challenging than it sounds, and surely worth the effort because, down below, you’ll discover a place completely hidden from the rest of the world – a cave enveloped in greenery called Shulamit’s Hair, a delicate, gentle waterfall and a shallow, pleasant pool. As you gaze at the waterfall, you’ll feel cocooned in this ancient cave, and when you turn around, you’ll discover a spectacular, open view. This romantic, serene place is also known for the Biblical story of David’s escape to Ein Gedi, when he fled from King Saul – “And David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.” (Samuel 23:14). Truth or legend? We’ll never know, but the thought of the cave’s ancient history certainly adds to its romantic landscape.

Departure and Finishing Point: Nahal David Nature Reserve Car Park
Logistics: Bring your partner.
Difficulty Level: Medium+
Trail Map: Number 8 – Northern Judean Desert & Dead Sea

Dodim Cave. Shutterstock

Water, Desert and Salt
The Dead Sea Land offers lots of possibilities for trips that include water, and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the Dead Sea itself – the most majestic of them all. Just coming to one of its beaches will make you feel as though you’ve fulfilled one of the Shavuot Holiday’s commandments. In order to feel really devout in your religion, it’s also a nice idea to wear white clothing, to stock up on some good cheeses commemorating the Holiday, some “Bikkurim” vegetables (the symbolic first vegetables of the season, which you can buy directly from farmers in Neot HaKikar and Ein Tamar) and “Bikkurim” dates (first-of-season dates – you’ll find these all over the Dead Sea Land and they’re probably the best you’ll ever taste. I take full responsibly for this statement!). Just a little-BIG request… at the end of the trip, please be sure to take all trash to the nearby bin and don’t leave it in the wild. Let’s leave nature clean and beautiful and our leftovers far from the wildlife that doesn’t need it.

Wishing you a nice, wet trip! You’re welcome to come back and tell us how it was.