A lasting impression at Einot Tzukim
The discussion among the bathers at the lowest nature reserve in the world wasn’t about the amazing site, only 30 minutes from Jerusalem, and only 20 minutes from my home – the over 150 fresh water springs which provide for the variety of fauna and flora which can be found in the reserve such as jackals, wolves, foxes, hyenas, leopards, date palm trees, reeds, bulrushes, and tamarisk trees.
No, they could have been talking about the ruins of an ancient town from the Second Temple Period which were excavated in the 1950s, including an impressive site for preparation of balsam oil
Perhaps discussion could have been about the Arabic name for the site – Ein Fash’ha – which Israel took over after the Six Day War in 1967. According to Israeli travel expert Aviva Bar Am, Israeli authorities recognized its unique and special qualities, declared it an official nature reserve and renamed it Einot Tzukim (Cliff Springs).
Next they closed off the northern and southern areas to preserve the region’s plant and animal life, and opened the middle section to the public.
In 1986 the Nature Reserves Authority leased the peaceful retreat to a private company that turned it into a loud, crass barbecue smoke-filled tourist attraction, as Bar Am called it, as noisy and crowded as a shopping mall. Because people were careless with their fires, the reserve suffered frequent, devastating conflagrations.
By 2000, the Nature Reserves and Parks Authority returned to Einot Tzukim in 2000 and have restored the tranquil beauty to the site. There’s no access to the Dead Sea, but inviting pools with constantly flowing water are full of minerals believed to have wonderful therapeutic properties. The springs are lined with tall, refreshing foliage; restrooms, showers and picnic tables are clean and in good repair.
And there’s the ’hidden reserve.’ A wilderness that is three times as large as the public area, this well-concealed jungle is not visible from the highway and in the past was effectively closed to outsiders. Now, aside from the summer months when it’s too hot, the hidden reserves have been open to visitors for tours with accompanying well-informed guides.
According to Bar Am…
People who come for the guided tours are often surprised to find that Einot Tzukim is actually the Ein Fash’ha of earlier times! Delighted to have returned to the site, they enjoy the hidden reserve and spend the rest of the day at the pools and springs
So, these fellows, trying to keep cool in the 100 degree weather could have been talking about any of the above. But without even eavesdropping, because they were speaking so animatedly, I was able to overhear what the subject of their conversation was: Printing!
Evidently all members of the printing profession, they were trading war stories about three-colored booklets, oversized posters, and describing the process in detail, as if they were recounting their war-time conquests. Each one was trying to top the other in outlandish accomplishment. It was almost as entertaining as the delightful cool water. But not quite.
How to get there: Ein Fash’ha is near the northern tip of the Dead Sea, across from Qumran National Park on the Arava highway (Route 90). Bus 486 or 487 from Jerusalem. Open seven days a week.
And if you know anyone, they’re looking for a lifeguard to work weekends.