Bell Caves – the Grandmother of All Caves

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The first caves dug at the 6th-7th AD. The Caves of Bet Govrin or Caves of Bet Gouvrin, are located at the site of the ancient town of Bet Govrin. Map.

The first caves dug at the 6th-7th AD. The Caves of Bet Govrin or Caves of Bet Gouvrin, are located at the site of the ancient town of Bet Govrin and are special because of its characteristic shape (bell). There are large amount of artificial caves, which were first dug in the 4th century B.C. There are 800 bell-shaped caves, the entrances camouflaged by cacti and fig trees. Rambo III with Sylvester Stallone was filmed here.

Today the caves are generally called Bell Caves because of their characteristic shape. They are rather big, 12 to 25 meters in height. Most caves have an elliptical cross section with a span of up to 40m.

The soft chalk is covered by a thin layer of hard limestone, which is the reason why the chalk was quarried underground. In most parts the cave ceiling is rather thin and so some caves already collapsed. At the moment the Civil Engineering Dept. at the Technion is analyzing the situation in order to stabilize the caves.

Bell Cave
Bell Cave

Originally there was a town called Maresha, which was populated since old biblical times. It was located on the top of Tel Maresha hill. When Sidonians and Greeks came to Maresha, they started to hew the first caves. The purpose of the caves was to provide soft limestone, which was used for construction, so actually they were quarries. But later the bell-shaped hollow space of the caves was used for water reservoirs, store rooms, olive presses, burials and pigeon breeding.

The settlement of Maresha was later replaced by Bet Govrin, which was renamed Eleutheropolis by the Romans. During Roman times an amphitheater was built in the northwestern part of Bet Govrin.

Bell Cave
Bell Cave

The town was populated during the Byzantine era, and during the 6th and 7th century again large caves were dug. The Crusaders restored a number of churches here, among them the church of St. Anne.

  • Bet Guvrin National Park From Kiryat Gat east.
  • Open:     OCT to MAR daily 8-16, APR to SEP daily 8-17.
  • Fee:     Adults 18 NIS, Children 9 NIS. Groups: Adults 15 NIS, Children 8 NIS.

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