The ancient Jewish settlement with its synagogue existed in the Third-Sixth centuries C.E. (Late Roman and Byzantine periods; also known as the Period of the Mishna and the Talmud).
Below these evidence was found of an earlier Second Temple period Jewish settlement which appears to have covered a large area than the later Jewish settlement.
Eusebius, an early Forth century father of the Christian Church, wrote of a "very large village of Jews" at Ein Gedi.
Early manuscripts tell of Ein Gedi's inhabitants who grew date palms and persimmons.
The persimmon bush (Ommiphora opobalsamum) yielded a substance from which a valuable perfume could be extracted.
Agricultural terraces and irrigation systems west of the settlement attest to Ein Gedi's agricultural past.
The synagogue was completely excavated; nearby streets and buildings were partially uncovered.
Buildings near the synagogue may have belonged to Synagogue officials, or served as study halls and inn.
The synagogue, a trapezoid shaped building constructed in the Third century C.E and paved with black and with mosaic floor, contained a moveable Torah Ark.
The north wall, with its two entries, faced Jerusalem.
The synagogue was renovated and its mosaic floor repaired at the beginning of the Forth century.
The central entry in the north was closed and converted into a nice for the Torah scroll.
Columns were added in the prayer hall dividing it into a prayer hall and two aisles on the east and south.
Three stepped rows of benches were built along the south wall.
The synagogue that we see today was built in the middle of the Fifth century.
It has a central prayer hall bordered by three aisles - on the east, south and west and along entry hall on the west.
The Torah Ark was placed in front of the north wall opposite a rectangular bama.
A new decorative mosaic floor with a dedicatory inscription was put down.
An outer staircase on the northwest wall led to a second story balcony.
The Jewish settlement and its Synagogue were destroyed by fire; sign of which were very evident during the excavation.
A hoard of line-wrapped coins was found in an adjacent building courtyard, the latest dated to the Emperor Justinian the First (527-565).
Early in his reign, Jews suffered from official persecution.
Argaeologists concluded that the Jewish settlement and its Synagogue were destroyed in this wave of persecution, in ca. 530 CE.
Our gratitude to the Authority for Nature reserves and National Parks for their permission to use the text from their folder for our "Live" site.
The pictures by: Pinhas Baraq