Zedekiah’s Cave – Full Guide – King Solomon’s Quarries


Zedekiah's Cave

Join us for a visit to Zedekiah’s Cave where we will discuss history, Bible references, Ark of the Covenant, concerts and more. Let’s begin!

Note: in many resources, the name King Solomon’s Quarries refers to Zedekiah’s Cave.

One One Foot

Under the old city’s buildings, a wonderful cave is hidden, wide and beautiful. Zedekiah’s Cave is one of Jerusalem’s’ marvels, and it’s open to the public.
Zedekiah’s Cave is 225 m long, and it served as an ancient quarry. The stone known by its Arabic name “Malaka” was mined here – a fine building stone that served to create the magnificent buildings of Jerusalem. As known today, the mining began at the First Temple period. Josephus called it the “Cave of Kings”. At the early 20th century stones were still mined in the cave and were used to build the “Clock Tower”, previously standing above the Jaffa Gate – but destroyed during the British Mandate.

Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.

Map

Zedekiah’s Cave is located close to Damascus Gate. It is under the Old City of Jerusalem, but the entrance is from outside of the Old City.

Map of the area:

And here is my photo of the Old City Map sign that I saw during one of my visits:

Jerusalem Old City Map

Note: you can click on the image to enlarge it.

On the photo of the map above, Zedekiah’s Cave is located at the top in square C7.

Directions And Parking

You can reach Zedekiah’s Cave either using your car or public transport. My favorite way is taking the light train to the Damascus gate station and walking from there. For detailed directions check out the Old City Of Jerusalem.

You will see the entrance to the cave when walking from Damascus Gate to the Flowers gate.

Damascus gate
Damascus Gate
Zedekiah's Cave
Approaching Zedekiah’s Cave

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 09:00-17:00 (16:00 during winter time).
Friday: Closed.

Entrance Fee

Adult: 20 NIS, and child (5 – 18 years old) / student / retiree: 10 NIS.

Notes:

  • opening hours and ticket prices were updated in January 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
  • You can purchase tickets online on the official website.

Events

Zedekiah’s Cave is used both for private events and concerts. In recent years many popular Israeli artists performed there. If you are interested in joining one of the concerts, then check the official Facebook page.

Description 

Note: the source of the following information is the translation from Wikipedia.

Zedekiah’s Cave is huge, all carved into the hard chalk rock typical of the Old City. Its area is about 9,000 square meters, its length is about 300 meters, its maximum width is about 100 meters, and its maximum height is about 15 meters. The only opening of the cave is relatively small and lies between Damascus Gate and the Flower Gate.

The cave extends beneath the Muslim quarter houses. Between the northern walls of Jerusalem to the Via Dolorosa Street area of ​​the Muslim Quarter, north of the Temple Mount. It appears to have continued to the southeast, but is blocked by landslides, and some have speculated that the cave had previously reached the Temple Mount. The cave is hewn nine meters below the houses built above it and is divided into large spaces and halls.

The depth of the cave has little spring, although it may be a drainage channel that was damaged when quarrying the cave and its water flowing in. Quarry marks, as well as graffiti inscriptions of modern times, can be seen on the cave walls.

Entrance to Zedekiah's Cave
The entrance to Zedekiah’s Cave

Note: in the photo above, you can see steps to the right. They lead to restrooms. And the steps in front of you head further into the cave.

Ark of the Covenant

When entering Zedekiah’s Cave, you will see a stand with a short explanation about the cave and you will also see the following stand.

Winged creature
Winged creature

The sign says that in 1873, French researcher Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau found an engraved winged mythological creature inside the cave. You can see an animal with four legs, a pair of wings and a tail. This creature has a human head with a conical hat and a beard. And it reminds the figure of a cherub.

The figure was removed during British governance and today it is stored in the British Museum.

Cherubs were a popular Old Testament motif and especially famous the two giant cherubs around the Holy Ark in Solomon’s Temple. Thus some people consider the cherub engraving as evidence that the quarry dates from the time of Solomon. Some even think that the Holy Ark was/is hidden in this cave.

And now let’s head further into the cave and talk about its usages.

Zedekiah's Cave
Zedekiah’s Cave

Usage

Note: the source of the following information is the translation from Wikipedia.

At first Zedekiah’s cave was a small natural cave, as its entrance shows, which is its only natural component. The cave became a quarry, and a large space was created following the many quarrying operations carried out there for centuries.

Signs of a quarry in Zedekiah's Cave
Signs of a quarry in Zedekiah’s Cave

The caverns in the cave are separated by walls and rock slabs left by the excavators to support the cave ceiling as the quarrying and deepening progressed. The cave floor level drops slightly as you move away from the doorway. And it seems to have been so deepened over the years, to prevent the foundations of the townhouses above the cave. The level of the entrance to the cave today is much higher than it used to be, following the accumulation of dirt and debris that have not been evacuated.

Names of the Cave

Note: the source of the following information is the translation from Wikipedia.

A Jewish tradition, which first appears in 16th-century sources, links the cave to the escape of Zedekiah, the last queen of the Kingdom of Judah, to the Jericho plain from burning Jerusalem.

The event is described in the Book of Jeremiah 52 (NIV):

4 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 5 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

6 By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. 7 Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. They left the city at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians[a] were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah,[b] 8 but the Babylonian[c] army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, 9 and he was captured.

According to this tradition, the cave was invaded on both sides, so Zedekiah could hide in it and escape through it.

Jewish tradition even links the spring in the cave to the tears of the blind king, who is still mourning the destruction of Jerusalem to this day. Because of this, it is called Zedekiah Tears Spring. However, the exact time at which the cave began to be named after King Zedekiah cannot be traced.

The English name of the cave is “King Solomon’s Quarries”, which dates back to the cave dating back to King Solomon’s days, some 300 years before Zedekiah’s days.

The Arabs call the cave the name “kings cave” or “cave Korah”. The first name is influenced by the English name, which attributes the cave to King Solomon, while the second name is based on local folklore, which identifies the cave with the place where his committee was buried after the land swallowed them. Either way, identifying the cave with different kings seems to be related to the type of limestone in which it is called “Malka”. This stone is convenient for quarrying, weather-resistant, and difficult to contact with air by natural coating in Nari, properly for royal buildings.

King Solomon's Quarries
King Solomon’s Quarries

History

Note: the source of the following information is the translation from Wikipedia.

Traditions that do not have archaeological references attribute the beginning of the cave’s activities to the First Temple period, and even to King Solomon’s day. Dating rests on the biblical account of the construction of the first temple by Solomon. As described in 1 Kings 5 (NIV):

15 Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, 16 as well as thirty-three hundred[e] foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers. 17 At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of high-grade stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple.

Zedekiah's Cave

In 1873, the French researcher, Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, discovered relief of a winged creature measuring 35X27 inches on a wall in the entrance hall of the cave. See Ark of the Covenant section above.

And though there is no clear evidence from the First Temple period, the cave is rich in testimonies from the Second Temple period. It is common to identify Zedekiah’s Cave as King Herod’s main source of the stone when he built the Temple of Herod about two thousand years ago. This identification relies on the quarrying style that was then acceptable and is evident in the cave walls. As well as the size of the stones that were removed from it, which characterize the walls of the Temple Mount.

It should also be noted that the cave is very close to the Temple Mount and is slightly higher than it is, which made it very easy to move the stones.

Examination of the stones that make up the Western Wall revealed that they are geologically identical to the rock of Zedekiah Cave, which also confirms the assumption that it originated from this cave.

It is possible that Zedekiah’s cave was also used by King Agrippa, Herod’s grandson, in his many Jerusalem construction projects, and perhaps even Agrippa II, who built the third wall in the first century AD.
You can find the full historical information here.

And the next big hall was a surprise for me.

Freemasonry

Note: the source of the following information is the translation from Wikipedia.

Many members of the Israel Exploration Fund, who explored Zedekiah’s Cave in the 19th century and dated it to King Solomon’s days, were members of the Masonic Order.

Shlomo is considered the spiritual father of the Order, and he is even known as the “First Freemason”. Because of this, Charles Warren, a member of the foundation and a freemason, offered to hold the annual bureau ceremony in the largest hall in the cave. For approval, Warren held meetings with Ottoman government officials, who were also members of the Order.

For many years, various ceremonies have been held in this hall, and so it is today called the Masonic Hall. Masonic activity in Zedekiah Cave ceased with the partition of Jerusalem in 1948, and the ceremonies returned to Zedekiah’s cave only after the Six-Day War.

The Freemasons Hall in Zedekiah's Cave
The Freemasons Hall in Zedekiah’s Cave

Zedekiah’s Tears

We continued deeper inside Zedekiah’s Cave until we reached “Zedekiah’s Tears”.

Zedekiah's Cave
Zedekiah’s Cave

As I mentioned in “Names of the Cave”, Jewish tradition links the spring in the cave to the tears of the blind king, who is still mourning the destruction of Jerusalem to this day.

In any case, the water is not drinkable.

Zedekiah's Tears
Zedekiah’s Tears

After this point, we descended a little further, but there was an ongoing construction, and additional access was restricted. There are still works in Zedekiah’s Cave to make it accessible to tourists. And my future readers will be able to to go even deeper into the cave.

But we turned back and started to make our way to the entrance.

Zedekiah's Cave
Zedekiah's Cave
Zedekiah's Cave
Back at the entrance of Zedekiah’s Cave

Our visit was quite short, and it took us a little more than half an hour. But, if you are visiting without kids, or joining a tour, then you can spend there up to one and a half hours.

Summary

Zedekiah’s Cave is a great place for a short visit. It is especially inviting on a hot or rainy day. But to enjoy it fully you have to know the history. So either take a guide or read my blog 😉

Moreover, since the acoustics is great, you can enjoy Zedekiah’s Cave in a different way. Read more in the events section.

Zedekiah’s Cave is managed by East Jerusalem Development Ltd. They also manage the Ramparts Walk and other sites in Jerusalem. You can either combine Zedekiah’s Cave with one of their POI or any other. See the map at the top of this post for suggestions.

Have you ever been to Zedekiah’s Cave? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

   

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers: And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.  
Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at hi@israel-in-photos.com, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Lev Tsimbler

Lev from israel-in-photos.com. You can contact me at hi@israel-in-photos.com

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