Those who enter the gate of Kibbutz Ein Gedi will probably have to rub their eyes or pinch themselves, to make sure it’s not a Fata Morgana.
After a long drive through the desert, a lush green paradise suddenly opens up before you, with huge trees that seem to belong in an adventure book, climbing plants, cacti in strange shapes and forms and an abundance of flowers. This wondrous sight will invite you to walk the garden paths and discover the many lovely corners that are hiding in it.
Today, there are about 900 different species of plants in the garden, which came from all over the world. Thanks to Ein-Gedi’s special conditions (both in the air and in the composition of the soil), many plants grow here surprisingly quickly and it’s clear that they thrive wonderfully here.
The result is that this not-so-large garden, is a mini-cosmos – you’ll find Baobab trees from Africa, Adenium from Australia, Cacti from South America, tropical vegetation and plants mentioned in the Bible. They all live together in one happy flower bed, and perhaps there is also symbolism in it, that we can all learn from.
A Garden that is a Kibbutz, a Kibbutz that is a Garden
One of the special things about the garden is, that it’s the only garden of its type in the world that is growing within a community. In fact, the kibbutz and the garden – are one. The entire kibbutz area has been declared a botanical garden and, when you walk along the garden paths, you can also see the special way of life on the kibbutz – the communal dining room, kindergartens, members’ houses, and more. You are also welcome to enter the Kibbutz Museum (free of charge), and learn about the kibbutz’s establishment and history – How did the first children grow up here? What do you do for a living in the middle of the desert? Who were the first people to come here and decide that this is where a kibbutz should be established? The museum is open daily between hours 8:30-16:00
But before the visit, it’s worth taking a moment to learn how it all began. As always – from a handful of people with a ‘crazy dream’.
As with every kibbutz, a “communal gardening branch” was established and the branch’s workers were asked to plant some trees for shade, and some grass so that it would be pleasant to sit outside. But Ein-Gedi’s gardeners took on the mission with unprecedented enthusiasm! They quickly discovered that Ein Gedi was a very fertile setting for plants so they contacted universities and, in cooperation with them, began making scientific experiments, preserving plants and more. Add to this the highly developed aesthetic sense of the workers, which turned the garden into a real gem. A kind of living museum dedicated to the world of flora cultivation. Some of these people still work in the garden today, and when you walk around there, you may meet them. Their hair may be gray now, but their enthusiasm and devotion remain exactly the same as they were.
You can explore the garden in two ways: independent walking or guided tour.
To tour independently all you need to do is to arrive during open hours, pass through the botanical garden visitors’ center, get a map of the garden with trail markings – and off you go! The map is available in Hebrew, English and Russian.
The second option is to arrange a guided tour in advance. The garden guides are all local people who have ‘lived and breathed’ the garden for years, know all its secrets, its seasonal cycles and all its mysteries.
If you like, you can also linger at the visitors’ center, at the beginning or end of your tour – drink espresso overlooking the view, buy cosmetics based on plant-extracts, dates grown in the garden, and also plants to take away with you, to continue your botanical garden experience at home.