The Leopards of Ein-Gedi in Israel

Ein-Gedi is an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Judean Desert. The name means Kid Spring: a compound of two Hebrew words: ein meaning spring, and gdi meaning young goat. Ein-Gedi is actually the name of a spring which flows from a height of 656 feet above the Dead Sea. In the Bible, the wasteland near the spring where David sought refuge from Saul is called “the wilderness of Ein-Gedi” and the enclosed camps at the top of the mountains, the “strongholds of Ein-Gedi.” Ein-Gedi is mentioned for the first time in the Old Testament (Joshua 15, 61) among the list of the six desert-cities in the domain of the tribe of Judas (Yehudah). (Junior Judaica Encyclopedia)

I was drawn to this exotic name (Ein Gedi) by a reference in a friend’s manuscript dealing with the relationship between Ted Hughes the English poet and Assia Wevill a European who settled in Israel for a time after the War. Hughes referred to the “last of the leopards of Ein-Gedi” in one of his poems “Folk Tale” published in 1970 in his book of poems “Crow”.  See this extract from Dina Edward’s manuscript in progress.
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What he wanted
Was the gold, black-lettered pelt
Of the leopard of Ein-Gedi. 
She wanted only the runaway slave.
………………….
He wanted the seven treasures of Asia-
Skin, eyes, lips, blood, hair knotted roughly
In seven different flags.
(From Folk Tale by Ted Hughes)

While researching this poetic reference, I came across the amazing YouTube video above made in 2008. There are still doubts as to whether any of the leopards from the original aristocratic dynasty of leopards that roamed the area still exist. And even whether any lepoards still roam the wildreness of Ein-Gedi.

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