Every oasis is a wonder. It’s always a joyful surprise to find fresh water that gushes suddenly in the heart of the desert and enables trees to bloom. The oases of the Judean Desert, near the Dead Sea, are a unique wonder. At the northern edge are Einot Tzukim (Ein Feshkha), while further south you can find the four springs of the Ein Gedi nature reserve, flowing into Nahal David and Nahal Arugot.
There are several small springs in Nahal Tze’elim and tiny springs at the foot of the Hawar cliff between Nahal Ashalim and Nahal Peres, and there is also the surprise of Ein Bokek – a small oasis at the edge of the Matzok Ha’atakim in the southern Judean Desert. It is a lovely spring that has managed to survive opposite a series of hotels south of the sea and opposite Pool no. 5 of the Dead Sea Works – a multiple marvel.
Its great advantage is easy access. In a calculation of effort and enjoyment, Ein Bokek is a fantastic and worthwhile investment, something comparable to buying a three-room apartment in Ramat Gan. It’s no wonder that it’s a popular site for family hikes. The walk is short and easy, about a kilometer – or 20 minutes – upstream, with a moderate incline, and you get to wet your feet in the water along the way. Parking is convenient and well organized; there’s no ticket office for paying. The path looks natural, pleasant and not overly cared for, although a plastic pipe stretching the length of the riverbed spoils the pastoral picture somewhat.
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I was happy to discover this week that after undergoing a difficult and dangerous period, Ein Bokek is in good shape today. In the past, the spring was known for the excellent quality of its water. But about a decade ago, apparently because of groundwater pollution in the industrial plants of the Rotem Plain (20 kilometers southwest of Ein Bokek) the water became more saline. Seven years ago the water was desalinated and its quality was improved. This week, in a tiny and very unscientific test, the water tasted good.
Many tamarisk trees provide pleasant shade over the Nahal Bokek riverbed. After a few hundred meters you reach a sharp curve in the stream, after which there is a shallow pool. About 200 meters west of it, upstream, is the so-called “large pool” at the foot of a three-meter waterfall. Traversing from the first pool to the waterfall requires a certain effort, and you can use the pegs embedded in the rock. That is the end of the short hike. From here the best thing to do is to return by the same route.
Good hikers will continue on the path marked in black, climb up the stairs and pegs towards Ma’aleh Bokek and arrive at Ein Noit. From there you return on a red path in the direction of Metzad Bokek – a Byzantine-era fortress – to the parking area.
How to get there
Set WAZE to the Sonol Ein Bokek gas station west of Highway 90. Parking is on the continuation of the access road. The visit is free and doesn’t require reservations. Or take Bus no. 486 from Jerusalem to Ein Bokek.