With winter time fast approaching in the northern hemisphere, much of the world is hunkering down with indoor activities. Not in Israel! Here, we’re pulling on our Blundstones–though it has been trendy for the younger crowds to wear them all year long– and heading outdoors. For tourists visiting Israel in the winter, this is a great time to enjoy the many hiking opportunities here without having to deal with the intense summer heat. This is particularly so for visitors with kids. Israel’s Stalactite Cave is an ideal hike for the entire family.

Israel’s Stalactite Cave

Israel's Stalactite Cave - Nes Mobile
מרכז להב”ה מגאר, מתוך אתר פיקיויקי

But for those who would really like a unique and other-worldly experience, going underneath the ground is where it’s at. The natural caves that spot the countryside offer breathtaking beauty and ring with historical and scientific importance. One such cave is Israel’s Stalactite Cave– also known as as Maharat HaNetifim, the Sorek Cave, and the Avshalom Cave– located outside of Beit Shemesh.

This cave is one of the most unique stalactite and stalagmite caves in the world. It is a dense wonderland of textured cones and cylinders formed from limestone, the most plentiful stone in the area. These shapes pull down from the cave’s ceiling and reach upward from the cave floor, taking on human-like personalities of their own. And considering all of the soft rock, water pools, and delicate conditions that must be kept within the cave to preserve these formations, it’s clear that the conservation authorities have their work cut out for them.

Pun intended.

Israel Stalactite Cave – The Panoramic Views

Israel's Stalactite Cave jerusalem mountains - Nes MobileTurning off the highway, and driving through the beautiful nature reserve, you get to the parking lot and ticket-booth to the Stalactite Cave. Here at the entrance to Israel’s Stalactite Cave you can fill up on water and enjoy the panoramic view of the hills that make up Beit Shemesh, the active quarry-sites nearby, and on a clear day, you can even see far beyond the city into the flatlands leading to the ocean.

Going on through the gateway, there is a fairly steep hike down dirt paths and wooden steps to get to the entrance of the cave. There you can step inside the visitor’s center and wait for a guided tour, while enjoying something from their fully-stocked snack bar. English tours are provided as well, just take a look at their site for the schedule.

Stalactite Cave – The Tour

When your group’s turn comes, you’ll head through the heavy doors that protect the premises to the small chamber-cave turned movie theater. Here the tour guide sits everyone down for a short clip explaining how the cave was discovered in the 60s, when the area was serving as a quarry-site. One of the blasts unearthed the entrance to this stunning sight, which was declared a national nature reserve a few years later. It also explains that much of the funding for this reserve came from the parents of a Avshalom Shoham, a soldier who had passed away from severe wounds sustained while on duty during this same time period.

Then it’s time to step through the arched opening which leads to the main observation platform. Here you are hit by the earthy-moist smell, the cool air, and the constant echoes of water drops. The scene is lit up by unique lights which were actually invented to light up this space, while causing minimal damage to the formations.

Stalactite Cave – Watch Your Step

A note to anyone pregnant or with breathing issues: take it slow. The constant movement of water and limestone here give off a lot of carbon dioxide, which can make you a little dizzy, particularly near the end of the tour.

Once you get over the initial shock of the sights and sounds, your tour guide will move you along with a wonderful story-type narrative of the rock. You’ll hear the story about the bride and groom who marry, “Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs,” and “elephants ears;” you’ll learn about how the water droplets flowing through and outside the formations cause different textures, and these tell us about the history of this area’s climate and geology.

And while kids love the stories about the different formations, they’ll also enjoy running through the cave to see snake skeletons beneath the pools, and playing with their echoes. Heck, adults enjoy that, too!

So pull on your hiking boots, dive into something new, and come visit the Stalactite Cave near Beit Shemesh on your next trip to Israel! For more info visit: http://www.parks.org.il/ParksAndReserves/stalactiteCave/Documents/brochureEn.pdf

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