Avshalom Cave (official site) A.K.A. Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave is a 5,000 m2 cave not far from Beit Shemesh.
Map of the area:
The Discovery Of Avshalom Cave
Avshalom Cave parking lot is located above the cave itself. You’ll need to go down about 160 steps till you reach cave entrance (there is special disabled parking next to the cave). While you go down the stairs you’ll see quarries around. The quarries were there also back in 1968, and this is how the cave was discovered:
One day in May 1968, the sound of blasting echoed across the western slopes of the Judean mountains. On the face of things, just another blast at the Hartuv quarry that supplies stone for construction, no different than the hundreds that preceded it. But this blast was entirely different: it revealed a small opening into a wondrous world that had been hidden deep within the earth, concealed from the eyes of all living creatures. With that blast, the current chapter in the life of the Stalactite Cave began.
Note: all quotes were taken from the official site.
Visiting Avshalom Cave
When you get down, you need to wait for a tour to start. You can’t enter by yourself. It usually takes up to 20 min for a group to be formed and then a guide will accompany you. Usually, there is a short explanation outside (next to the cave) about this place and its surroundings. Then inside you will see a short movie about this place and afterward you enter the cave.
Comparing to other caves in the world it’s not a big one (max length – 91m, max width – 80m and max height – 15 m), but what makes it unique is the fact that it’s densely packed with various types of stalactites.
Inside the cave, you’re walking on a concrete path with fences around you. You’re not allowed to touch the stones since it will ruin delicate chemistry. Once a stalactites touched, it will stop growing. Next to cave entrance there is a “pet corner” where you can touch several stalactites.
The air temperature in the cave is constant year-round at 22 º c and humidity range from 92% to 100%. High humidity together with light will create mold. And National Parks Authority doesn’t want the stalactites to be covered with mold (installed lights and flashlights used by guides aren’t regular ones). Thus, you are not allowed to use any lights including flashes. Therefore, in my photos, you won’t see people. I kept the ISO low, thus in most cases, the shutter was 20-30 sec (and people don’t stand still for such long periods). This also means that if you want to photograph there you’ll need a tripod and drag behind your group.
Why is it called Avshalom Cave?
The Stalactite Cave is dedicated to the memory of Avshalom Shoham. Shoham was very severely injured during his army service in the elite Sayeret Shaked unit. He fought for three years to recover, but on February
4, 1974, he passed away… Avshalom Shoham loved the land of Israel. He traveled its length and breadth, and may have even visited the Stalactite Cave before it was officially opened to the public. As a meaningful way of perpetuating his memory, his family and friends assisted the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in preparing the cave for opening to the public.
Here is a short video I created after my visit:
The last slide in the movie shows two signs. You can see those signs when you go up (back to the parking) and they tell you how many stairs are left and approximate amount of calories you will burn. For example, the one on the left: “You still have 126 stairs, which is equal to 124 calories. This is the approximate amount of calories in a yogurt. Starting to get hungry?” 😉
You can find additional photos from the previous visit to Soreq cave here.
In my opinion, Avshalom Cave is one of most beautiful nature reserves in Israel. A visit will not take much time, but it will definitely leave an impression. You can visit it on your way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or when traveling in this area. In any case, my recommendation would be not to skip this hidden gem.
That’s all for today and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby check out Jerusalem page.