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Monday, January 30, 2017

Ein Gedi's Ancient Synagogue

For most visitors, a tour of Ein Gedi means the short circular nature trail among lush vegetation and fresh water pools of Nahal David or the longer trail of Nahal Arugot.

Many people overlook the nearby antiquities which can be visited on the same entrance ticket and are well worth a short stop.
Image result for ein gedi synagogue
Evidence of the ancient Jewish settlement from the Second Temple Period were discovered by chance in 1965 when a mosaic floor was revealed among the date plantations of the modern kibbutz Ein Gedi.

Ein Gedi Synagogue Central Medallion
Further excavations in the 1990s revealed remains of a settlement and synagogue from the late Roman and Byzantine periods - 3rd-6th centuries CE.

The synagogue was completely excavated and nearby streets and buildings partially uncovered.  Recently, excavations have restarted in the surrounding area.

Eusebius, an early 4th century father of the Christian Church, wrote about a very large village of Jews at Ein Gedi. Early manuscripts tell of Ein Gedi's inhabitants who grew date palms and persimmons. The source of the community's wealth was the persimmon bush or afarsimon which yielded a substance from which a valuable perfume could be extracted.
mosaic detail
In addition to a bird medallion, a seven-branched menorah graces the synagogue mosaic floor. A Hebrew and Aramaic inscription in the left aisle lists the 13 forefathers of mankind, the 12 signs of the zodiac, thanks the benefactors and curses community members who do not keep the rules of the village.
Seven-branched Menorah detail

Archeologists believe that the settlement came to the end by the late 6th century.

Access the antiquites by following the sign to Nahal Arugot and Ein Gedi Synagogue.

There are picnic tables, bathrooms and a quiet place to enjoy the view of the Dead Sea away from the crowds. Open 8-4 in the winter and until 5 p.m. April-October