Tag Archives: Caves/Tunnels/Cisterns/Grottoes

Qumran Caves – Confirming the Bible and Torah?

The caves of Qumran are famous since the discovery of the The Qumran Scrolls, the oldest manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in 1920. Tens of thousands of scroll fragments written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. They were stored in cylindrical pottery jars with a lid of a type unknown elsewhere. Map.

Qumran
Qumran

The jars are about 50cm high and 25cm in diameter. More than 2000 years ago, during the Second Temple Period, members of the Essenes, a separatist Jewish sect, lived in this area. They formed an ascetic monastic community.

Qumran
Qumran

This landscape was a desert like today, but a nearby spring made Qumran a flourishing oasis. They had many well educated members, and produced copies of biblical scrolls, which they stored in nearby caves. To protect the valuable books, they used small caves in the wall of the nearby wadi, to hide them.

Qumran
Qumran

In the year 68 those people were struck by a huge earthquake and had to leave their home. They closed the caves with walls of raw stone, which made them nearly invisible. As the Essenians never returned, the knowledge about the caves was lost, and the books were save until the 20th century.

Qumran
Qumran

The first book was discovered by accident. Later other books were also discovered by accident. It took nearly 80 years until consequent scientific exploraton started. The books were restored in the institute of books in Jerusalem, which naturally took a rather long time.

Qumran
Qumran

The old parchment was very fragile and the most important goal was, to prevent further damages. Some of the books were broken into small pieces, and it was difficult and time consuming to reassemble complete pages. But while this work was going on, the Qumran roles became rather famous among pseudo scientists.

Qumran
Qumran

They argued, if the content were only one more copy of a well known book, it would not be necessary to hide the content from the public for decades. So there must be written something which the “officials” do not want the ordinary people to know. The rumors were things like “God was an extraterrestrial making genetic experiments with mankind 3000 years ago”.

Today’s Qumran is an archaeological site, where the ruins of the habitation of those who deposited the scrolls in the nearby caves are shown. The caves are explained, but there is no possibility to visit them.

  • Qumran Caves – Wadi Qumran, about 25km east of Jerusalem.
  • Classification: natural/artificial.
  • Guided tours: only for the archaeological site, not for the caves.
  • Map.

Hazan Caves

The Hazan Caves are underground hideouts, built by Jews during the 2nd century A.D. to hide from the Romans. This was the time of the Bar Kochba revolt. The area is rural, coming from the west or north it is the last green area before one reaches the Beer Sheva and Negev deserts. The caves served as halls, kitchens, store rooms, and water cisterns. Map.

Hazan Caves
Hazan Caves

The people who built the caves lived above farming and producing olive oil. Several rooms show notches carved into the floors, in which clay jugs with olive oil were placed for storage. Between the rows narrow furrows in the floor collect the oil from broken jugs and directed it into a central pit, so that no oil would be wasted.

Hazan Caves
Hazan Caves

The caves are often narrow and low, but in most places they are tall enough to walk through them upright. Several chambers are connected by narrow passages, where we visitors have to crouch or even crawl. The small parts are generally a lot of fun for children visiting the caves.

Hazan Caves
Hazan Caves

The caves are well lit, which makes a visit less strenuous. There is a short film about the site shown before the visit. The visit is very important, nevertheless claustrophobic visitors should refrain from a visit. Special clothes are not needed, good shoes are still a good idea.

  • Near Lachish, 16km southeast of Kiryat Gat.
  • Classification: Artificial.
  • Light: Electric.
  • Map.
Hazan Caves
Hazan Caves

Hariton Cave – Do-It-Yourself in Caving!

Hariton Cave is a network of dwellings carved into the mountainside by Byzantine monks. It is named after Haritun, a 5th century monk who founded a monastery with study cells in the walls of a wadi. It is said to be the largest system of such dwellings in the Middle East, some five kilometers long. Map.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

There are 60 chambers connected by narrow and mostly low passages. The cave is a labyrinth of low passages and so it is easy to get lost.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

There is a rope in the main passage which allows a sort of self guided visit, but as it starts some way inside the cave we recommend to remember the location of the entrance. However, the cave is not really dangerous and intensively visited, so the biggest danger is if visitors panic.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

We recommend to join a guided tour which is offered by various organizations or at least obey the general safety rules for caving: never go alone, take enough spare lights with you and tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

In some descriptions we read it was a natural cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Also there seems to be some difference in the exact size of the cave, we also read about a length of some three kilometers.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

Haritun Cave is located right below the famous fortress Herodion south of Bethlehem, named after Herodes who was buried here.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

Also there are three cisterns of enormous size which were needed for the water supply of the fortress. They were originally dug when the hill was much lower, before Herodes built the palace above. The walls are covered by thick plaster and were completely watertight.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

A little below is a pool which was filled by an aqueduct, with water flowing by gravity. But the cisterns could not have been filled by rainfall, so it is supposed they were filled by hand, most likely by donkeys transporting the water uphill or by slave work.

Hariton Cave
Hariton Cave

Another small cave nearby called Wadi Haritun Cave got notorious for the discovery of two bodies. Yaakov Nathan Mandell and Yosef Ish Ran were students who were hiking through these hills. They were stoned to death by a group which called itself Palestinian Hizballah on the 9th of May 2001. The parents of Yaakov Nathan Mandell created a foundation to help the relatives of victims of such terrorist attacks. There is a small bronze plate commemorating this event at the cave entrance.

  • Below Herodion, near Teqoa.
  • Open: no restrictions.
  • Fee: free.
  • Classification: Cave House  Cave Tomb
  • Light: bring torch

Yodfat Roman Trek

Yodfat is an off-the-beaten-track adventure you won’t want to miss if you are an avid fan of Roman history and a reader of Josephus, whose immortal descriptions bring alive the Temple, Jerusalem, Massada, Caesarea, and of course, this Galilee mountain town, which he called Jotapata. Map.

It was here that Josephus, who was a general in the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (66-70 CE) before he was its chronicler, was captured by Romans. From the top of the mound, Josephus’ rich description of the site and the battle comes alive. Yodfat’s caves and cisterns (careful, not all are marked!) played a part in the dramatic story that Josephus tells of his own capture here and the suicide pact that led to it.

On the north side of the mound, remains of the Roman wall can be seen. Beautiful vistas are revealed from the mound and on the trail to it, including oak and carob groves, olive orchards and Jewish National Fund pine forests. A rough gravel road off road 784 south of modern Yodfat is sign-posted in English and Hebrew. The road is 2-3 kilometers long and reaches a grove from which visitors can climb to Tel Yodfat.

For exact directions, contact the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) or in Israel, call the INPA at 972-3-638-8688.

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