Tag Archives: Ein Gedi

Sinkholes at Dead Sea

Sinkholes have appeared on the Israeli and Jordanian shoreline of the Dead Sea as the water level recedes. The first sinkholes appeared in 1980, there were 40 in 1990 and there are more than 5500 today. Fresh water from runoff dissolves the salt in the newly uncovered salt-laden earth creating an empty cavern. When the top crust of earth collapses a sinkhole is formed. The holes fill up with water and the naturally occurring minerals create pools of different colors, red, orange, yellow, green and indigo with borders of encrusted salt, incredible to see and photograph. I took these photos along the shore of the Dead Sea over a period of months.

Sinkhole driftwood

Photographing Wildlife at Ein Gedi

These two wildlife photos were taken on a hike in Nahal Arugot in the Ein Gedi Nature reserve. Nahal David is the more popular, family oriented part of the reserve which makes Arugot great for a more off the beaten track outing, less crowded and great for photographers. If you follow the stream bed to the end of the wild and photogenic canyon you will reach the hidden waterfall.

Ibex at Ein Gedi

The ibex (Capra nubiana) is one of 9 species of wild goats (the North American Rocky Mountain goat is in a separate genus, Oreamnos). The ibex is a ruminant, meaning they have four-chambered stomachs and chew their cud so they are kosher, along with addax, antelope, bison, deer, and giraffe. Evidence of the ibex is widely present in the archaeological record, for example, rock drawings, pottery and seals, particularly in the Near East and Mediterranean regions.

The technical details – the above photo of a young ibex was taken with a Nikon D90 digital SLR camera with Nikkor 18-70mm lens at the end of October (ISO 500, 70mm, F9 at 1/125 sec) in Nahal Arugot.

Rock Hyrax

The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis, in Hebrew שפן הסלע) is a medium-sized (~4 kg) terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail but, in fact, the hyrax is related to the modern-day elephant. The rock hyrax inhabits rock crevices which protect it from predators as written in Psalms 104,18  סלעים מחסה לשפנים, rocks hide the hyrax; it also uses sentries, one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators. Among at least 21 vocalizations that the hyrax can make, it makes a loud grunting sound while moving its jaws as if chewing which may be the reason that the hyrax is listed in Leviticus 11,5 as a non-kosher animal that chews its cud. Unique to hyraxes is the dorsal gland, which excretes a skunk-like odor used for social communication and territorial marking. Hyraxes typically live in groups of 10–80 animals, and forage as a group. The rock hyrax has incomplete thermoregulation and so can be seen sunning itself on rocks – it spends approximately 95% of its time resting.

Photo of the Week – Ibex

When hiking in the Ein Gedi nature reserve keep your eyes open for hyrax, Tristram grackle and ibex. As I was coming out of the reserve a group of some forty ibex went by. Their color blends into the cliff side but I caught this one as it climbed over the hill.

Ibex

The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon DSLR camera (ISO 400, 200mm, F11 at 1/500 sec).

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Related articles

You might be wondering if this photo was shot on a different planet but in fact it is in Israel (like all these photos), a shot of sinkholes on the shore of the Dead Sea with the cliffs above En Gedi in the background. You can click on the image for a larger view (which may take some time to load depending on your Internet connection). Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

Dead Sea Sinkholes

The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon D90 (digital SLR) camera with a Nikon 18-70mm lens on July 2 (ISO 200, 29mm, F11 at 1/400 sec).

For more information about the Dead Sea check out my post at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/dead-sea/.
I’ve uploaded a set of sinkhole photographs to Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/27944012@N06/sets/72157621040678204/

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Nubian Ibex

Wild goats are very agile and hardy, able to climb on bare rock and survive on sparse vegetation. The Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana) is a rocky desert dwelling goat found in mountainous areas of Israel and throughout the Middle East that eats mainly grasses and leaves. Archaeologists have found evidence of the ibex on cylinder seals and painted on pottery. You can find rock drawings of ibex on a hill above Carmei Avdat, a family farm where grape vines grow on original Nabatean terraces.

Ibex rock drawings

Across from the farm is the En Avdat nature reserve. I was hiking with a client in the canyon mid-morning and the sun was perfectly backlighting a grove of Euphrates poplar trees for a great photo. Near the entrance is a large Pistachio Atlantic tree with gnarled branches and strong roots anchoring it in a field of rocks. This tree was ablaze in reds and yellows – one of the things I miss is the beautiful autumn colors I used to see in Canada. As I looked up among the branches I saw an ibex that had climbed 10 feet up into the tree. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera.

There is a good chance to see ibex at nearby Sde Boker, overlooking Nahal Zin. Farther south, you can see ibex in the parks and on the edge of the makhtesh at Mitzpe Ramon.

Ein Gedi is a great place for a hike, to take a family to experience springs, waterfalls and pools in the desert. Today as we pulled into the parking lot, we saw a male ibex on the roof of a Eldan rental car so that it could reach the leaves of a nearby tree. I know ibex are good climbers and the ibex in the Ein Gedi reserve are used to people but that was certainly a surprise.

Ibex at Ein Gedi on car roof

The Dead Sea

Driving on highway 90 from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea takes half an hour as you descend from more than 700 meters above sea level to 400 meters below sea level. The Dead Sea is situated at the lowest point on earth, in the Great Rift valley that runs from Turkey in the north to Mozambique in the south, in the crack in the earth’s crust created when Asia and Africa were torn apart five million years ago. Originally it was an ancient larger sea connected to the Mediterranean when water flowed across the Jezreel valley and Jordan River to fill the rift. Although it has no outlet, evaporation in the hot Judean desert reaches 25 mm per day in the summer so in four days it loses the equivalent of the annual rainfall. When the amount of water flowing into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River was equal to the amount lost to evaporation, 1.2 billion cubic meters, the level stayed in equilibrium. Today the Dead Sea is receding at the alarming rate of one meter a year as Israel and Jordan divert the waters flowing into it. The sea is still 1100 meters deep at the northern end so it isn’t going to disappear tomorrow but it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Hilton, Dead Sea

At Lido junction at the northern end of the Dead Sea I often stop to show people the replica of a Crusader map painted on the curved walls of what was a fancy Jordanian restaurant on the shores of the Dead Sea. The artwork was done in March 1973 by Kohavi, who served like me as a reserve soldier at the nearby “Hilton” hotel, now an Israeli army base. Here you can see the trickle that is the Jordan River today flowing into the Dead Sea.Jordan River flowing into Dead Sea

Continuing south along highway 90 we’ll pass some private beaches on your left where you can float in the salty water of the Dead Sea and cover yourself in mineral rich mud. The mud contains magnesium, potassium, sodium, bromide and calcium, all beneficial to our skin; in fact, as the mud dries it even draws out toxins from your skin.

On your right we’ll pass Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the nearby caves. At that time, Qumran was a land terminal, you couldn’t continue southward except by boat. The Dead Sea was an important transportation route because even heavily-laden barges would float easily (the Madaba mosaic map shows 2 such boats carrying salt and grain). On your left is En Feshka (also called Einot Tsukim). Excavations were carried out here in 1958 by de Vaux (when he was excavating Qumran) and in 2001 by Hirshfeld. The concensus is that this was a farm that prepared balsam perfume. Today it is a nature reserve, 1500 dunam of which has restricted access and can only be visited with an authorized guide like me.

Just before we reach En Feshka look up on the cliffs to your right for the PEF markings, 2 black horizontal lines drawn in 1900 and 1927 by members of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the letters PEF in red. To help you understand how much the Dead Sea has receded these lines were painted from a boat floating on the Dead Sea in the 1900s.

East of the main highway (on your left) we’ll see a few sinkholes and more across from Ein Gedi. As the Dead Sea recedes fresh water from runoff dissolves the salt in the newly uncovered salt-laden earth creating an empty cavern. When the top crust of earth collapses a sinkhole is formed. More than a 1000 sinkholes have appeared on the Israeli and Jordanian coasts of the Dead Sea in the past 15 years. The holes fill up with water and the naturally occurring minerals create pools of orange, yellow, green and indigo with borders of encrusted salt, incredible to see. I’ve taken a series of photographs of sinkholes that you can see on my Flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/27944012@N06/sets/72157621040678204/

Sinkholes at Dead Sea © Shmuel Browns

Israel with kids

Israel is a great place to visit with kids. The country is small but varied. One day you can be bumping along in a jeep on the Golan Heights with a view into Syria and hear the stories of Israel’s capture of the area during the Six Day War in 1967. The next day you can be riding on a camel across the sands in the Negev, sleeping in a Beduin tent or under the stars. On the Mediterranean coast, in Akko there is a Crusader fortress that was buried in sand by Al Jazar in order to build his citadel that we can explore. At Masada there is a Herodian fortress in the desert later used by Zealots in the Great Revolt against the Romans. There is an opportunity to climb through caves more than two thousand years old, an experience out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. In Jerusalem you can walk around the Old City on the ramparts from the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, walk on paving stones that go back to Roman times and even the Second Temple period or walk underground along the length of the Western Wall.

Check out this article by Nancy Better in the May 17th edition of the New York Times, Taking the Kids – In Israel, With a Whiff of Adventure.

All the sites mentioned in the NY Times article can be incorporated into your personalized tour. There are less expensive accommodations for those on a tighter budget.