The beginning was modest and simple. Hosting was always for a whole week, since the Egged bus arrived only once per week. When a new group would arrive, the entire staff, composed of four people, would climb on the bus to unload the luggage and take it to the rooms. After the guests’ departure, the women of the kibbutz would clean the rooms and ready them for the next visit.
During the rest of the week, the guests were responsible for cleaning their rooms and changing their sheets themselves. There were no towels and each guest had to bring his or her own. The guests had one table in the kibbutz dining room, and a kibbutz member was appointed to cook them special food and serve it to the table. As the guesthouse grew, so did the need for additional tables. Stormy meetings were held at the kibbutz until it was decided to simply build an additional separate dining room, and from that moment onward the members of the kibbutz were no longer able to enjoy the same delicious specialties that were prepared for the guests…
Later on, a wooden cabin in the style of the old settlement was added. The Command Car saw constant use and was eventually replaced with a Studebaker. On the beach, showers were installed, a better access to the beach itself was constructed, and a large raft was added on which the guests spent many pleasant hours until the Studebaker arrived to take them back to the kibbutz.
At this stage, it was decided to build a spa with pools of hot sulfur water. The manager of the guesthouse would go down each morning to operate the sulfur pools’ pump and return after two hours with the guests when the pools were full. At the end of the day he would go back to drain the pools and return the guests to their rooms.
The high demand for vacation in Ein Gedi was surprising and unexpected. It grew to the point at which the kibbutz couldn’t accept more guests. Most of the bookings were to a group of senior guests who arrived twice a year on fixed dates. Around this group, an entire folklore was created. People used to bequeath their “membership” in Ein Gedi to their children, and this was once even discussed on the Kol Israel radio station, which required some explanatios from the guesthouse manager as to why other guests were not accepted.
The guesthouse continued to grow. The wooden cabins were replaced with concrete buildings. In the center of the guesthouse yard a large grassy area was planted along with two small trees – less than one meter high – nothing comparable to the huge baobab trees. The grassy area became the focal point for guests and their social and cultural life. Every afternoon, the guests would go to this natural area to meet, sing, tell stories and create the unique and intimate atmosphere for which Ein Gedi is known. People from all levels of society and from different places and cultures would meet barefoot on the grass, in short pants and shirts, and spend long hours together.
With the passing years the place expanded further. Ein Gedi became a synonym of health, tranquility and blessed simplicity. Yoske Arieli, the father of one of the kibbutz
members, made contact with people from Germany, his place of birth. He started bringing over people from Germany, who loved Ein Gedi and returned for dozens of
years with the same affection and dedication. Many of them considered Ein Gedi their second home.
The deep connection between the Israeli and German guests and the kibbutz members was extraordinary, and gave the place a unique atmosphere of friendship and love for humanity, overcoming historical, cultural and geographical boundaries.
In 2000, the “Arugot” wing of the guesthouse was constructed with 32 spacious and elegantly designed rooms; the swimming pool was renovated and expanded; the gardens were lovingly landscaped and the large reception wing was built, including a small shop and bar in which to spend the evenings. At the same time, the staff increased with the addition of new members.
The coming years were ones of expansion and construction. In 1984, the old spa building was abandoned and replaced by the current one, with six pools, a restaurant, a freshwater pool, and a large cosmetics boutique.
In 2012, it was decided to transform the guesthouse into a full-fledged hotel and establish the new boutique wing. Today this wing includes the Arugot rooms, the mini suites and rooms, the deluxe rooms, and the highlight of the establishment – the luxurious synergy spa. The staff was joined by a new chef, who has designed an original menu based on fresh, healthy ingredients with a wide variety of vegetables. Despite its expansion, the hotel has kept its original intimate village character. Today, it features 166 rooms spread over buildings of up to two floors, in a landscaped setting with green gardens, huge trees such as the baobab and Ficus Benghalensis, and most of all – the quiet peace and tranquil desert beauty.