Want to see Israel from a unique perspective? Then check it out from below the surface!
For all its topside beauty and diverse geography, Israel also offers you several caves to discover and explore, many with interesting ties to the Bible.
Off The Beaten Track – The Flour Caves
Nahal Perazim is a beautiful narrow gorge with high walls. Obviously this gorge was formed by flowing water eroding into the rather soft sedimentary rocks during the last 18,000 to 20,000 years. The water was flowing from a lake, which once covered the area, to the dead sea. The floor of this gorge is horizontal and covered with sand, which makes it rather easy to walk through.
After 15min walk through the gorge, you will reach Flour Cave, dubbed so because of the flour-like substance you will have on your clothing when emerging from it. The rocks are chalk, which is white, soft and crumbling. If you did not forget your torch, you can safely follow the cave. It is always high enough to walk upright and the floor is level. It takes only a few minutes to reach the other end, where you leave the gorge by ascending a series of steps of white rock to the top of the gorge.
The visit to Flour Cave is easy and much fun for the whole family. Nevertheless, in an aired climate very rare rainfalls appear, especially in winter, which might cause the gorge to flood in seconds. So take a little care about the weather and have a nice visit.
This mysterious cave located east of Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem goes back about 1,000 feet under the northern Old City wall – and about 2,000 years in history. Make that 2,600 years, if you include the legend that gave the cave its name.
It is said that Zedekiah – Jerusalem’s last biblical king and a Babylonian puppet deposed during the final siege on the city – attempted to flee Jerusalem to Jericho through this cave. He was captured and brought before the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, where his sons were murdered in front of him and his eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:1-7).
In keeping with this tragic story, at the back of the cave is a tiny spring known as “Zedekiah’s Tears.” This is where you will discover that the cave has no exit; archaeologists tell us that in fact it was a quarry from which Herod the Great hewed stone to build the Temple.
The cave’s dramatic lighting reveals signs of the quarrying. In 1868, the first meeting of Freemasons in Ottoman Palestine was held by candlelight in Zedekiah’s Cave. Its impressive dimensions have bestowed another traditional name, meaningful to Masons: “King Solomon’s Quarries.”
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai Cave and Spring
The Zohar – the white-domed roof of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, rebel against Rome – is one of the most beloved destinations in the world for Jewish pilgrims.
Tens of thousands of people stream to the tomb, located in Meron near Safed, on Lag Ba’omer, the traditional death date of Rabbi Shimon. A disciple of Rabbi Akiva, Shimon bar Yochai hid from the Romans with his son in a cave for many years, where they were miraculously nourished by a carob tree and a stream of water. A path from the southern part of his tomb complex leads to a cave and the spring of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
The cave is also known as the Cave of Hillel, based on a twelfth-century tradition identifying a tomb in it as that of Rabbi Hillel the Elder. According to tradition, only the righteous could witness a miracle in the cave: the sudden appearance of water. When such people beheld this event, their prayer requests would be answered.
The Cave of John the Baptist
Most Christians imagine John the Baptist preaching and baptizing on the banks of the Jordan River. Now, thanks to archaeological detective work, Christian visitors are able to fill out this picture to include John’s youth.
Archaeologist Dr. Shimon Gibson believes that a cave uncovered in 1999 bears evidence of Christian presence from John’s time until the eleventh century. Among many fascinating finds at the cave, which groups can arrange to visit, is a 2.5-foot-high wall carving of a man with an upraised arm, holding a shepherd’s crook and wearing a rough garment – possibly depicting John.
One tantalizing theory is that this is the cave where, according to legend, Elizabeth sheltered John from Herod’s murderous soldiers (Matthew 2:16). A cave with an uncanny resemblance to this one appears on a Byzantine-era Holy Land souvenir found in Italy, a disk bearing the words “Blessings of the Lord from the refuge of St. Elizabeth.”
Elijah’s Cave in Haifa brings visitors both the sanctity of a Jewish holy place and the sharing of traditions for which Haifa is famous. The stairway to the cave, located off Allenby Street in lower Haifa, reveals spectacular vistas of the city.
The site was first mentioned in a letter written from the land of Israel in 1626 by a Jewish visitor telling about the holy places, which described “Elijah’s large and magnificent cave” on Mount Carmel. Here, according to legend, Elijah came to pray before challenging the prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18). The cave has a Torah Ark and a space in the ceiling where visitors can insert prayer notes.
While in the cave, you may find a few people quietly praying, or a lively celebration in honor of a circumcision or a three-year-old boy’s first haircut. The right-hand wall of the cave, which in various periods has been sacred to Christians and Muslims as well, is covered with ancient Greek inscriptions, and one in Hebrew, along with two seven-branched candelabra.
So, as you walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles topside, don’t forget to see the unique sites Israel has to offer underground!
Discover more about seeing the Bible come to life in Israel – and how to host your own tour group to Israel. Get your free copy of the Christian Leader’s Tool Kit today at www.IsraelToolKit.com.
In 1947 when a young shepherd boy threw a rock into a cave near Khirbet Qumran (about 13 miles east of Jerusalem), trying to drive out an animal, he was led to the first findings of the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. Ten other caves in this abandoned area (along the Dead Sea) were found to contain other original scrolls. The scrolls, written on papyrus, parchment, and copper, were safely hidden in jars and preserved for two thousand years because of the region's arid climate.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Cave of Adullam
Originally, an underground cavern, the Cave of Adullam was near the town of Adullam. This is the cave where David hid from King Saul when Saul sought to kill him. What's more, it wasn't far from where David slew the giant Goliath, in the hills of Judah.
I Samuel 22:1-5
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
Sorek Cave is the only showcave in Israel. It was discovered during quarry works. Around the cave numerous limestone quarries produce limestone for cement and for the typical natural stone faces of the Jerusalem houses. Several years ago the popular major of Jerusalem made a law, that all new buildings in Jerusalem must have a natural stone facade. Since then, the limestone industry in Israel booms. However, the quarry around Sorek Cave is now a nature preserve and mining is stopped.
Sorek Cave is famous for its beautiful formations. Stalactites and stalagmites, but also many other forms of speleothems, especially calcite crystals, helictites and cave coral, make it well worth a visit.
The dripstone walls are very impressing. A dripstone wall is not a type of speleothem, but a specialty of Sorek Cave, how stalagmites formed here. Cracks in the ceiling were leads to the calcite rich water. Along those cracks, the water emerged at many points and formed stalagmites and stalactites. They grew together forming pillars, all lined up in one row, following the crack. Today those rows of pilars form massive flowstone walls, ten or fifteen meters high, 30 or 40 meters long and only half a metre thick. They cut the large hall into smaller chambers.
The uniqueness of the cave made a very carefull development necessary. So it took nine years, until it was finally opened to the public. The light system of the cave and the wooden walkways are designed to save the beauty of the cave. The entrance and the exit have double doors to prevent warm air from outside to get into the cave. Because of the formations' delicacy, photography is only permitted one morning a week (Fridays).
The light system is computer controlled, the brightness is very low, just a sort of emergency lighting. But when the tour reaches a point, the guide starts a program and the light highlights the most impressing formations. This system, designed to reduce the needed light and the amount of heat it produces, is extraordinary.
However, the temperature of the cave, which was 19°C when the cave was discovered, is now at 24°C. Without all those precautions it would be much higher, but still the temperature is much too high and the natural processes in the cave are disturbed.
Nahal Ha-Me'ara- the cave wadi
The Judea Mountains offer some beautiful hiking tours. The tour to Nahal Ha-Me'ara (the cave wadi) with Me'arat Ha-Teoomim (the Twins Cave) in its end, is one of the loveliest among them. The Mediterranean vegetation welcomes with its evergreen wealth the visitor to the wadi all around the years. Hidden springs water the orchards of the ruined villages. A cavern, dug by the power of nature, and the tales that were knitted about it, will welcome us in this amazing route.
Nahal Ha-Me'ara is a seven-km route that requires 4 - 6 hours for completion. The difficulty level of walking is easy and fits for families. The route is not a circular one, so another vehicle should be left at the route's end, but some circular routes are available in few parts. The route is spectacular all year long, but in the winter months (November – March) Me'arat Ha-Te'omim is closed to visitors to protect the bats that populate and hibernate in there. It is recommended to bring at least 3 lt. of water for a person, a hat, sun tan lotion, while bringing a flashlight is imperative.