Past, Present and Future
By Dr. Gideon Hadas
Ein Gedi is
one of the most beautiful places in the world, if not the most… a combination
of stony desert mountains, green oasis fed by mountain springs and the
many-coloured Dead Sea, the lowest place in the world. Its geology and history
are equally fascinating. The ancient Jewish village of Ein Gedi was inhabited
in Biblical times and destroyed and rebuilt again and again over the centuries.
Before the founding of kibbutz Ein Gedi in 1956 it had not been inhabited for
The Ein Gedi
oasis site lies at the foot of the Judean Mountains, on the western shore of
the Dead Sea, between the nature reserves of Nahal David and Nahal Arugoth. In
between is the settlement spur, where the village was built over the period of
many years and where, at the eastern part, is the Byzantine period synagogue,
roofed today by a large tent. To the north are the mango groves of kibbutz Ein
Gedi, and to the east are plantations of date palms. To the west, high above
the settlement is the vast Judean desert.
In December 2013 we
intend to finish revealing the "Halfi Son House" attached to the largest
dwelling house in the village by the synagogue that might be "Halfi
House" whose name is mentioned in the synagogue inscriptions.
We will continue the excavations from
January 2013, when we completed to reveal the "Halfi House", and now
we will expose the large building attached to it and the alleys bordering it to
the north and west.
The first excavations in Ein Gedi, directed by
Professor B. Mazar in the 60's, uncovered the First Temple settlement at Tel
Goren and the Chalcolithic temple. In the 70's Professor D. Barag and Dr. Y. Porat
excavated the Byzantine synagogue and started to reveal a few buildings. In
1995 I cleaned the alleys and bulks that remained there since the 70's.
From 1996-2002 Professor Y. Hirschfeld uncovered the
adjoining Byzantine village. I worked with him during these seven years as an area
After Professor Hirschfeld announced that he was ending his
work in Ein Gedi, I took upon myself to carry on the study of the oasis. In
this I was encouraged and helped by a devoted team of international volunteers who
understand the importance of continuing this work. So was born the archaeological expedition of the Ein Gedi
During 2003 - 2010 we, the Ein Gedi Oasis Excavations expedition,
uncovered part of a Jewish village from the late Second Temple (Roman) period. We
have uncovered some ten houses all of the same period, complete with the clay
vessels used by their inhabitants and the ovens where every family baked its
own bread and meals. We also exposed a alley between the houses and now have a
better understanding of the rural Jewish settlement which was here ca. 2000
Over the years of
excavations it became clear that the Jewish settlement in Ein Gedi began at the end of
the First Temple Period in the 7th century BCE, and ended in the 6th century CE.
That is to say, in the Ein Gedi oasis, Jewish settlement existed continuously
for about a thousand years. It was assumed that all during this period, the permanent
dwellings of the settlement
in Ein Gedi were only built along the natural ridge on which lies Tel
Goren and the
Now, the expedition is going to combine together the site of
the Ancient Synagogue of Ein Gedi with the late Prof. Hirschfeld's excavation of
the Byzantine village nearby. The idea is to save it from neglect and to enrich
the visitors understanding there, with a complete experience of visiting the 6th
century village with its synagogue.
The expedition also intends to continue looking
for the magnificent Hasmonean or Herodian palace awaiting discovery somewhere in the oasis. Many architectural elements from such a building have been found — in the
Roman Bath, where its capitals
were reused as paving stones, and in many places in the village, Roman and Byzantine,
reused as building stones.
Ultimately, we envisage a complete archaeological
park between the two nature reserves of Nahal David and Nahal Arugoth encompassing Jewish settlement from the First Temple, Roman and Byzantine periods.
The excavations and processing the finds rely exclusively on
donations, which can be sent to:
Israel Exploration Society / Ein
Gedi Oasis Excavations directed by G. Hadas
POB 7041 / 5
Avida St. / Jerusalem 91070 / Israel
Bank Hapoalim / Branch
King George St. 16 / Jerusalem / Israel
Account no. 100497
Name of the account: Israel
Ein Gedi Oasis Excavations directed
by G. Hadas
Instructions for transfer of funds via P.E.F.
To: P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds,
317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607 / New
York, NY 10017 / USA
Attention: Mr. Ben Harrison Frankel,