I quit feeling sorry for David on this trip to Israel. At least partly. It couldn’t have been easy for him to know the king was hunting him down. But if he had to hide, En Gedi was the place to do it.
Maybe because we had just come from the Dead Sea. Maybe because the land around us had been scorched and craggy and brown, brown, brown. Maybe because without the early rains, water had been scanty. Maybe for all these reasons, it felt like God had touched his finger to En Gedi, making it a patch of paradise.
No wonder many people call it the most beautiful place in Israel.
We hiked Wadi David that runs through En Gedi. But instead of the dry desert river bed I had expected, water spilled into crystal basins along the trail, ran off rocky ledges, dripped from giant reeds and cattails, and flowed into pools large enough for swimming.
We trailed along an amazing labyrinth of narrow gorges and through tunnels created by decades of dried reeds that thatched into each other, making a roof over the trail. Sometimes we descended to the creek bed, where we stepped on rocks to keep our shoes dry. And we climbed to David’s Waterfall, which cascades a forceful 120 feet into the pool below.
Above us ibex scampered on the mountain rocks. Around us sweet dates, balsam, and persimmon grew. And in our ears was always, always the sound of a water that is perhaps the freshest and most nutritious in the world.
This is what makes En Gedi—the water. But what also makes En Gedi is the desert. The desert is necessary to truly appreciate the water. More than opposites, the desert and En Gedi are also aspects of the same thing.
On this waterside hike, I thought about the famed encounter between David and King Saul at En Gedi. Given, Saul’s animosity, what gave David the courage and grace to cut a corner of Saul’s cloak instead of killing him?
I don’t know, of course.
But maybe desert water helped.