The Little Prince Would Love Ein Gedi’s Baobabs
At a kibbutz alongside the Dead Sea, a botanical paradise flourishes, including species of Saint-Exupéry’s ‘upside-down tree’
Adam and Eve may have been exiled from the Garden of Eden, but at least a few of their progeny were fortunate enough to return. These lucky souls live at Kibbutz Ein Gedi, founded on the desert slopes of Judea in 1953 as the first Jewish settlement on the site in more than 1,400 years.
Like their counterparts in the Negev, and the Israelites who preceded them at Ein Gedi, the new settlers toiled vigorously to make the desert bloom. Along with date palms and grapefruit they planned to sell in the local markets, the young farmers industriously planted flowers in little plots right outside their doors. The gardens succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and agricultural institutes from all over the world soon began bringing specimens to the kibbutz to determine how they would fare in the desert.
The results were incontestable: A unique combination of climatic conditions combined with smart irrigation produced foliage that was more successful at Ein Gedi than in its original African or Mediterranean home. So luxuriant and diverse that it was proclaimed an International Botanical Gardens in 1994, Kibbutz Ein Gedi is, today, a veritable paradise boasting well over 1,000 species of plant life and a unique botanical aura.
Visitors are welcome in the Botanical Gardens, despite their proximity to the kibbutz members’ homes. Enjoy the view as you walk through the kibbutz: to the east the Dead Sea peeks out from beyond foliage of mammoth proportions, shining a brilliant, incandescent blue; to the west stark brown desert cliffs stand tall against a bright sapphire sky, providing a striking backdrop for the lush green of the kibbutz gardens.