Eileen and I went for a drive southwest of Herziliya with the destination of the Judean hills and Beit Guvrin in mind. I thought that we were going to visit another site of ancient ruins, and believe me I have no problem with that, but instead, we found some remarkable discoveries that day.
On our way to Beit Guvrin we saw a road sign for the Avshalom Cave. Eileen remembered it to be a special place to visit and photograph so we decided to detour and stop. Boy was it worthwhile!
Avshalom Cave , also known as Soreq Cave (or Stalactites Cave in Hebrew), is a 1,600 sq ft cave on the western side of Mt.Ye’ela, in the Judean hills, and is unique for its dense concentration of stalactites. Some of the stalactites found in the cave are over 12 feet long, and some have been dated as 300,000 years old.*
The cave was discovered accidentally in May 1968 while workers were quarrying with explosives in the Judean hills. The quarrying was immediately discontinued and the location of the cave was kept a secret for several years for fear of damage to its natural treasures. The cave is named after Avshalom Shoham an Israeli soldier killed in the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt.
Along the side of the road…
…on our way to Beit Guvrin we noticed this abandoned bus waiting to be photographed.
Beit Guvrin (Maresha) was inhabited thousands of years ago. While the site has some nice Roman ampitheatre to explore the true beauty of the area were found in the caves.
The Sidonian Caves…
These caves were burial caves for the Greek, Sidonian and Edumite inhabitants of Bet Guvrin. The Sidonian caves are the only ones that are painted inside. In reality, what is found now are repaintings of the old designs. The first and biggest cave has paintings of animals, real and mythic, above the niches where the corpses were laid.
The animals sometimes have a symbolic function. For instance the cock crow to scare away demons.
The three-headed dog Cerberus guards the entrance to the underworld.
A bright red eagle on the sarcophaguses is a phoenix which is reborn from a ritual fire and symbolizes the life after death.
The Bell Caves…
When I think of caves, the first image that comes to mind is a dark, dank place with low ceilings and bats flying above. The Bell Cave at Beit Guvrin doesn’t fit this image at all. Its walls are made of beige colored limestone,
it is large (over 60 feet high).
Wherever you look there was something special to photograph.
The Roman Amphitheatre…
The remains of a Roman amphitheater at Beit Guvrin were uncovered in the mid-1990s. The amphitheater was built in the 2nd century, on the northwestern outskirts of the then city of Beit Guvrin. This amphitheater, in which gladiatorial contests took place, could seat about 3,500 spectators.
It had a walled arena of packed earth, with subterranean galleries. The arena was surrounded by a series of connected barrel vaults, which formed a long, circular corridor and supported the stone seats above it;
It was built for the Roman troops stationed in the region.