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EN-GEDI (Heb. עֵין גֶּדִי).

(1) An oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Judean Desert. En-Gedi (En-Gaddi in Greek and Latin; ʿAyn Jiddī in Arabic) is actually the name of the perennial spring which flows from a height of 656ft. (200 m.) above the Dead Sea. In the Bible, the wasteland near the spring where David sought refuge from Saul is called "the wilderness of En-Gedi" and the enclosed camps at the top of the mountains, the "strong-holds of En-Gedi" (i Sam. 24:1–2). En-Gedi is also mentioned among the cities of the tribe of Judah in the Judean Desert (Josh. 15:62). A later biblical source (ii Chron. 20:2) identifies En-Gedi with Hazazon-Tamar but this is rejected by most scholars. In the Song of Songs 1:14 the beloved is compared to "a cluster of henna in the vineyards of En-Gedi"; the "fishers" of En-Gedi are mentioned in Ezekiel 47:10.

In later literary sources, Josephus speaks of En-Gedi as the capital of a Judean toparchy and tells of its destruction during the Jewish War (Wars, 3:55; 4:402). From documents found in the "Cave of the Letters" in Naḥal Ḥever, it appears that in the period before the Bar Kokhba War (132–135), the Jewish village of En-Gedi was imperial property and Roman garrison troops were stationed there. But in the time of Bar Kokhba, it was under his control, and was one of his military and administrative centers (see *Judean Desert Caves). In the Roman-Byzantine period, the settlement of En-Gedi is mentioned by the Church Fathers; Eusebius describes it as a very large Jewish village (Onom. 86:18). En-Gedi was then famous for its fine dates and rare spices, and for its balsam.

After surveys of the area, five seasons of excavations were conducted at En-Gedi by B. Mazar, T. Dothan, and I. Dunayevsky between the years 1961–62 and 1964–65. The settlement of En-Gedi was found to have been established only in the seventh century b.c.e. with no evidence of occupation in the time of David (tenth century b.c.e.). Excavations showed that Tell Goren (Tell el-Jurn), a small hill above the southwestern part of the plain near Naḥal Arugot, was one of the main centers in the oasis beginning with the Israelite and especially in the Iron ii, Hellenistic, and Roman-Byzantine periods. Surveys of the area revealed that the inhabitants of En-Gedi had developed an efficient irrigation system and engaged in intensive agriculture. The combination of abundant water and warm climate made it possible for them to cultivate the palm trees and balsam plants for which En-Gedi was renowned. The settlement was apparently administered by a central authority which was responsible for building terraces, aqueducts, and reservoirs, as well as a network of strongholds and watchtowers along the road linking En-Gedi with Teqoa.

Five periods of occupation were uncovered on Tell Goren. The earliest settlement, Stratum v, was a flourishing town which had spread down the slopes of the tell dating from the Judean kingdom (c. 630–582 b.c.e.). Various installations, especially a series of large clay "barrels" fixed in the ground, together with pottery, metal tools, and ovens indicated that workshops had been set up for some special industry. This discovery conforms with various literary sources (Josephus and others) which mention En-Gedi as a center for the production of opobalsamon ("balsam"). It can thus be assumed that En-Gedi was a royal estate which ran this costly industry in the service of the king. This first settlement was apparently destroyed and burned by Nebuchadnezzar in 582/1 b.c.e.

The next town on the tell (Stratum iv) belongs to the Persian period (fifth–fourth centuries b.c.e.). Its area was more extensive than the Israelite one and its buildings were larger and well-built. A very large house, part of it two-storied, which contained 23 rooms, was found on the northern slope of the tell. En-Gedi at this time was part of the province of Judah as attested by the many sherds inscribed "Yehud," the official name of the province.

Stratum iii belongs to the Hasmonean period. Its famous dates are mentioned in this period by Ben Sira (Ecclus. 24:14). En-Gedi flourished, especially at the time of Alexander *Yannai and his successors (103–37 b.c.e.). A large fortress on the tell was probably destroyed in the period of the Parthian invasion and the last war of the Hasmoneans against Herod.

The next occupation (Stratum ii) contains a strong fortress on the top of the tell surrounded by a thick stone wall with a rectangular tower. This settlement is attributed to the time of Herod's successors (4–68 c.e.); it was destroyed and burned apparently during the Jewish War in 68 c.e. Coins from the "Year Two" of the war were found in the area of the conflagration.

During the Roman-Byzantine period (Stratum i) the inhabitants of the tell lived in temporary structures and cultivated the slopes of the hill (third–fifth centuries c.e.). It appears that at least from the time of the Herodian period the main settlement at En-Gedi moved down to the plain, east and northeast of Tell Goren between Nahal David and Nahal Arugot.

A Roman bath was found in the center of this plain about 660 ft. (200 m.) west of the shore of the Dead Sea. It is dated by finds, especially six bronze coins, to the period between the fall of the Second Temple and the Bar Kokhba War.

A sacred enclosure from the Chalcolithic period was found on a terrace above the spring. It consists of a group of stone structures of a very high architectural standard. The main building was apparently a temple which served as the central sanctuary for the inhabitants of the region.

Excavations (1970) brought to light the remains of a Jewish settlement dating from the Byzantine period. The synagogue had a beautiful mosaic floor depicting peacocks eating grapes, and the words "Peace on Israel," as well as a unique inscription consisting of 18 lines which, inter alia, calls down a curse on "anyone causing a controversy between a man and his fellows or who (says) slanders his friends before the gentiles or steals the property of his friends, or anyone revealing the secret of the town to the gentiles. …" (According to Lieberman, it was designed against those revealing the secrets of the balsam industry.) A seven branched menorah of bronze and more than 5,000 coins (found in the synagogue's cash box by the ark) were also uncovered.

[Benjamin Mazar]

Since the writing of the entry above by Benjamin Mazar, new archaeological work and historical studies concerning En-Gedi have been made. En-Gedi is an oasis on the fringe of the Judean Desert, situated in the middle of the western shore of the Dead Sea, in the rift valley, the lowest place on earth. The climate of the rift valley is arid and climatic changes have in the past influenced the flow of the springs as well as the levels of the Dead Sea. The source of the springs is in the aquifer of the Judaean Group of the Cenoman-Touron Formation. In the past, there were ten springs, but only four are active today: 'Arugot, David, En-Gedi, and Shulamit.

En-Gedi is mentioned for the first time in the Bible as Hazazon Tamar (Gen. 14:7), which was identified as En-Gedi (ii Chron. 20: 2). In i Samuel 23:29; 24:2–3, David took refuge in the wilderness of En-Gedi. En-Gedi is mentioned once in each of the Talmudic writings (tj, Shevi'it 9:2, 38d; tb, Shabbat 26a). The inhabitants of En-Gedi made their living from agriculture. They cultivated a very poor marl and stony soil with irrigation channels from the waters of the springs. They also collected salt and asphalt (bitumen) from the shores of the Dead Sea, as well as chunks of sulfur from the marl plains for the production of medicines. The main cultivations in this oasis were palm trees and barley; balsam, a cash crop, was also grown in the region. Writers from the Roman period praised the excellent dates that grew in En-Gedi and Judaea (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 13:6, 26; Josephus, Ant., 9: 7). The palm tree, a symbol of Judaea, was used as a motif on Jewish coins and Flavian victory coins. Transportation between En-Gedi and other parts of the country was dictated by geographical and political conditions. During ancient times En-Gedi had a strong connection with Jerusalem. During the First Temple period, En-Gedi was first established as a military outpost on the western shores of the Dead Sea over against Moab and Edom. Later maritime transportation was undertaken on the Dead Sea, as has been proven by the discovery of wooden and stone anchors, as well as of anchorages near En-Gedi and at other locations around the Dead Sea. Although sailing vessels have not yet been found underwater, drawings and graffiti of sailing ships are known from Masada and on the mosaic map of Madaba. The connection between En-Gedi and Nabataea, and later with Arabia, is attested by ancient historians, on the one hand, as well as in the Judean Desert Documents, on the other. Nabatean coins have also been found in archaeological excavations.

During the 1980s–90s a systematic archaeological survey was conducted in the area, and a number of intact burials of the Second Temple period were revealed and excavated. These were family tombs and the bodies were wrapped with linen shrouds and interred in wooden coffins, usually without funerary objects (Hadas, 1994). In the late 1990s a large area of the Byzantine village adjacent to the synagogue was excavated and many dwellings were revealed, all of which supports Eusebius' description of En-Gedi as "a large village of Jews" (Hirschfeld, in press). During this project the irrigated agricultural systems were also investigated and excavated (Hadas, 2002). In recent years (2003–5), a new suburb of En-Gedi dating from the Second Temple period has been revealed to the northwest of the synagogue (Hadas, forthcoming). Caves in the cliffs behind En-Gedi have also been surveyed, revealing Bar-Kochba coins and papyri in some of them, and much earlier Persian period ornaments in another. Additional excavations conducted in the area of the synagogue area (Hadas, in press) have shown that the Byzantine village was destroyed and burnt in the sixth century c.e. This was the end of the Jewish settlement, which had existed here almost continuously for about one thousand years. A gap in the occupation of En-Gedi existed until the 13th–14th centuries c.e., when a Mamluke village was founded at the spot and existed there for about a century. Remains of this period were found above the synagogue site and in the general vicinity. A water mill was also built at this time (Hadas, 2001–2) and it still exists near the En-Gedi spring. En-Gedi remained in ruins until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

[Gideon Hadas (2nd ed.)]

(2) Settlement in the Judean Desert on the west bank of the Dead Sea, founded by Israeli-born youth first as a *Naḥal military outpost in 1953 and later in 1956 as a civilian kibbutz affiliated to the Ihud ha-Kevuẓot ve-ha-Kibbutzim. Its primary functions were, initially, those of defense; but it also successfully developed farming methods adapted to the local conditions of a hot desert climate and an abundance of fresh water from the En-Gedi Springs. These are fed by an underground flow (from the rain-rich intake area on the western slopes of the Hebron Hills), which emerges on a fault line. An area surrounding the Springs has been declared a nature reserve because of the small enclave of Sudano-Deccanian flora existing there. A field school of the Society for the Preservation of Nature, a youth hostel (Bet Sara), and a recreation home are all situated there. Until 1967 the means of transportation to En-Gedi were by land or sea from Sodom, on the south side of the Dead Sea. In 1962 a narrow asphalt road was built and it replaced the 50 km. dirt road that was frequently destroyed by flash floods in the winter months. At that time there was a motorboat that sailed from Sodom to En-Gedi, and a medical doctor used to arrive once a week by light plane (Piper) from Beer Sheva. In 1971 an asphalt road was built northwards and connected En-Gedi to Jerusalem, shortening the travel time from En-Gedi to Tel Aviv, from 5 to 2 hours. The kibbutz economy was based mainly on tourism, including a guest house and medicinal waters. Farming was based on mango plantations, date palms, and herbs. The kibbutz had a 25-acre botanical garden with 900 plant species from all over the world. In 2002 the population of En-Gedi was 603.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa and

Gideon Hadas (2nd ed.)]


B. Mazar et al., En-Gedi, Ḥafirot … (1963); B. Mazar, in: bies, 30 (1966), 183ff.; idem, in: Archaeology, 16 (1963), 99ff.; idem, in: Archaeology and Old Testament Study, ed. by D. Winton Thomas (1967), 223ff.; idem, in: iej, 14 (1964), 121–30; 17 (1967), 133–43; Y. Aharoni, in: Atiqot, 5 (1961–62), En-Gedi; ibid., 3 (1961), 148–62; idem, in: iej, 12 (1962), 186–99; B. Mazar, S. Lieberman, and E.E. Urbach, in: Tarbiz, 40 (Oct. 1970), 18–30. add. bibliography: G. Hadas, "Stone Anchors," in: Atiqot, 21 (1992), 55–57; idem, "Nine Tombs," in: Atiqot, 24 (Hebrew; 1994); idem, "Water Mills," in: baias, 19–20 (2001–2), 71–93; idem, "Ancient Irrigation Agriculture in the Oasis of Ein Gedi" (Doctoral Thesis, 2002); idem, "Excavations by the Synagogue," in: Atiqot, 49 (in press); G. Hadas et al., "Two Ancient Wooden Anchors," in: jna, 34:2 (2005), 307–15; Y. Hirschfeld, Excavations (forthcoming).

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