In this article we have a collection of national parks and Nature reserves of Israel.For those of you who are considering to go to a park, I would say let the pictures speak for themselves. There are national parks in the north and the south their own charm. Here we focus on the park and nature reserves in the middle and south of Israel. The next article we focus on the north of the country.
Avshalom (Stalactites) Cave
The cave was discovered accidentally in May 1968, while quarrying with explosives, near Hartuv, 3 km east of Bet Shemesh, Israel. It is 83 m long, 60 m wide, and 15 m high.
The cave is named after Avshalom Shoham, an Israeli soldier killed in the War of Attrition. After its discovery, the location of the cave was kept a secret for several years for fear of damage to its natural treasures.
The temperature and the humidity in the cave are constant year round, and it is now open to visitors, in the heart of the 67-dunam Avshalom Nature Reserve, declared in 1975. In 2012, a new lighting system was installed to prevent the formation and growth of algae.
Some of the stalactites found in the cave are four meters long, and some have been dated as 300,000 years old. Some meet stalagmites to form stone pillars.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
Ein Gedi nature reserve was declared in 1971 and is one of the most important reserves in Israel. The park is situated on the eastern border of the Judean Desert, on the Dead Sea coast, and covers an area of 14000 dunams (one modern dunam equals the area of one decare).
The elevation of the land ranges from the level of the Dead Sea at 423 meters (1,388 ft) below sea level to the plateau of the Judean Desert at 200 meters above sea level. Ein Gedi nature reserve includes two spring-fed streams with flowing water year-round: Nahal David and Nahal Arugot. Two other springs, the Shulamit and Ein Gedi springs, also flow in the reserve. Together, the springs generate approximately three million cubic meters of water per year. Much of the water is used for agriculture or is bottled for consumption.
The reserve is a sanctuary for many types of plant, bird and animal species. The vegetation includes plants and trees from the tropical, desert, Mediterranean, and steppian regions, such as Sodom apple, acacia, jujube, and poplar. The many species of resident birds are supplemented by over 200 additional species during the migration periods in the spring and fall. Mammal species include the Nubian ibex and the rock hyrax.
The Ein Gedi national park features several archaeological sites including the Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi and a first-century CE village. The park was declared in 2002 and covers an area of 8 dunams.
Ein Prat Nature Reserve
Wadi Qelt is home to a unique variety of flora and fauna. St. George’s Monastery and one of the oldest synagogue in the world, Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue, are located in Wadi Qelt, which has been identified with the biblical “Perath” mentioned in Jeremiah 13:5.
Wadi Qelt contains monasteries and old Christian locations. Several aqueducts have been found along the stream, the oldest dating to the Hasmonean period (2nd century BC). The Wadi Qelt Synagogue, built as part of a Hasmonean royal winter palace, is believed to be one of the oldest synagogues in the world. The site was home to the winter palaces of Hasmonean kings and Herod the Great. The area was occupied by Israel in 1967, and hence parts of the wadi were declared a nature reserve, the Nahal Prat Nature Reserve.
Qubur Bani Isra’in are huge stone structures which rise from a rocky plateau overlooking Wadi Qelt
On December 20, 1968, Israeli lieutenant-Colonel Zvi Ofer (Tzvika Ofer), commander of the elite Haruv unit, former Military Governor of Nablus and recipient of the Israeli medal of valour, was killed in action in Wadi Qelt while pursuing Arab militants who had crossed the Jordan.
Wadi Qelt was the site of several [Palestinian political attacks] on Israeli hikers following the 1993 Declaration of Principles peace agreement between Israel and the PLO. Dror Forer and Eran Bachar were shot to death on October 9, 1993, Ori Shahor and Ohad Bachrach were shot and killed on July 18, 1995, and Hagit Zavitzky and Liat Kastiel were stabbed and killed on April 25, 1997.
Ein Tzukim Nature Reserve
Ein Feshkha is a nature reserve and archaeological site on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about three kilometers south of Qumran in the West Bank, which is occupied by Israel. It is named for a spring of brackish water in the area. The Ein Feshkha nature reserve consists of an open reserve with pools of mineral water for bathing surrounded by high foliage and another section that is closed to visitors to protect the native flora and fauna.
The saline wetlands of Einot Tzukim are the only known place in the world where populations of Blue and Dead Sea killifish (Nevit Hula and Nevit Yam Hamelakh) live side by side. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture are constructing pools in the area to preserve these native fish. Two of the pools are complete and are now populated by tens of thousands of fish. Measures are also being taken to preserve the tilapia population.
Enot Tsukim is divided into three sections: the northern “closed reserve,” the central “visitors reserve,” and the southern “hidden reserve.” The closed reserve is only open to scientists by special invitation. This section covers approximately 2,700 dunams. The 500-dunam visitors reserve features wading pools filled with natural spring water.
Due to ecological concerns, the hidden reserve is closed to the public apart from tours on Fridays.
Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
The Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve is a 3,000-acre (12 km2) breeding and re-acclimation center administered by the Israel Nature Reserves & National Parks Authority, situated in the Southern Arabah near Yotvata.
The Yotvata Hai-Bar is the desert counterpart of the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve which operates in the country’s Northern Mediterranean forest.
Endangered and locally extinct animals mentioned in the Bible are bred here for possible reintroduction to the Negev desert. The Asian wild ass has already been reintroduced in the Makhtesh Ramon into the wild. In addition the park has some rare desert animals, which are not native to Israel, like the scimitar oryx and the Red-necked ostrich from northern Africa.
Qumran National Park
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank managed by Israel’s Qumran National Park. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalya. The Hellenistic period settlement was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus, 134-104 BCE or somewhat later, and was occupied most of the time until it was destroyed by the Romans in 68 CE or shortly after. It is best known as the settlement nearest to the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden), caves in the sheer desert cliffs and beneath, in the marl terrace. The principal excavations at Qumran were conducted by Roland de Vaux in the 1950s, though several later campaigns at the site have been carried out.
Masada National Park
Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish-Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there. Masada is located 20 kilometers (12 mi) east of Arad.
Masada is one of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions.
Beit Guvrin National Park
Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is a national park in central Israel, 13 kilometers from Kiryat Gat, encompassing the ruins of Maresha, one of the important towns of Judah during the time of the First Temple, and Beit Guvrin, an important town in the Roman era, when it was known as Eleutheropolis.
Archaeological artifacts unearthed at the site include a large Jewish cemetery, a Roman-Byzantine amphitheater, a Byzantine church, public baths, mosaics and burial caves.
The Sidonian burial caves were the family tomb of Apollophanes, the leader of the Sidonian community in Beit Guvrin. The Sidonian caves are the only ones that are painted inside. The caves were burial caves for the Greek, Sidonian and Edumite inhabitants of Beit Guvrin. The first and largest cave has paintings of animals, real and mythic, above the niches where the corpses were laid. A cock crows to scare away demons;the three-headed dog Cerberus guards the entrance to the underworld; a bright red phoenix symbolizes the life after death. The Tomb of the Musicians is decorated with a painting showing a man playing the flute and a woman playing the harp.
There are about 800 bell-shaped caves located in the area. Many of the caves are linked via an underground network of passageways that connect groups of 40-50 caves. The bell caves were dug during the Arabian Period for chalk to cover roads. The walls are beige colored limestone. There are numerous bell caves within the park grounds and events are held in one of them. It is large (over 60 feet (18 m) high), airy and easily accessible.
The Church of Saint Anne
Saint Anne’s church was first built in the Byzantine period and then rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century. The ruin is known in Arabic as Khirbet (lit. “ruin”) Sandahanna, the mound of Maresha being called Tell Sandahanna. The freestanding remains of the apse are well preserved
The remains of a Roman amphitheater were uncovered in the mid-1990s. The amphitheater was built in the 2nd century, on the northwestern outskirts of Beit Guvrin. This amphitheater, in which gladiatorial contests took place, could seat about 3,500 spectators. It had a walled arena of packed earth, with subterranean galleries. The arena was surrounded by a series of connected barrel vaults, which formed a long, circular corridor and supported the stone seats above it; staircases led from the outside and from the circular corridor to the tribunes It was built for the Roman troops stationed in the region after the suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion. The amphitheater is an elliptical structure built of large rectangular limestone ashlars. It was in use until destroyed in the Galilee earthquake of 363.
Ein Avdat National Park
Ein Avdat or Ein Ovdat is a canyon in the Negev Desert of Israel, south of Kibbutz Sde Boker. Archaeological evidence shows that Ein Avdat was inhabited by Nabateans and Catholic monks. Numerous springs at the southern opening of the canyon empty into deep pools in series of waterfalls. The water emerges from the rock layers with salt-loving plants like Poplar trees and Atriplexes growing nearby.
The southernmost spring is Ein Ma’arif, featuring a series of waterfalls and pools. A Byzantine fortress overlooks the spring and adjacent agricultural land. Further north is Ein Avdat, a 15-meter high waterfall that flows into an 8-meter deep pool of water divided by a small artificial dam.
Located near the northern entrance of the park is a spring called Ein Mor, named for the spice myrrh.
Growing around the springs are Poplar trees and Atriplexes, commonly known as saltbush, which grows on riverbanks and can tolerate salinity.
Shivta National Park
Shivta, is an ancient city in the Negev Desert of Israel located 43 kilometers southwest of Beersheba. Shivta was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2005.
Long considered a classic Nabataean town on the ancient spice route, archaeologists are now considering the possibility that Shivta was a Byzantine agricultural colony and a way station for pilgrims en route to the Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.
Roman ruins from the first century BCE have been unearthed in the southern part of the town, but most of the archaeological findings date to the Byzantine period. Shivta’s water supply was based on surface runoff collected in large reservoirs.
Three Byzantine churches (a main church and two smaller churches), 2 wine-presses, residential areas and administrative buildings have been excavated at Shivta. After the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE, the population dwindled. It was finally abandoned in the 8th or 9th Century CE.
In 1933-34, American archaeologist H. Colt (son of the gun manufacturer) conducted a dig at Shivta. The house he lived in bears an inscription in ancient Greek that reads: “With good luck. Colt built (this house) with his own money.”
The wine presses at Shivta give an insight into the scale of wine production at the time. According to the calculations of archaeologists, the Nabatean/Byzantine village of Shivta produced about two million liters of wine. Adjacent to the site is a large farm that uses Nabatean agricultural techniques of irrigation, sowing and reaping