Avshalom Cave, also known as the Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave, is one of many caves of Israel. Nestled between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, the cave lies on the western sides of the Judean Hills, approximately 20 km west from Jerusalem.
The spectacular cave measures 83 meters long, 60 meters wide, and 15 meters high. It is a 5000 square meter cave is covered in naturally built stalactites and stalagmites, some of which are over 300,000-year-old. Avshalom Cave teems with breathtaking naturally formed structures, accentuated by its light fixtures and stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, flowstone, shelf stone, helictites, and so much more!
Discovery and Formation
The discovery of Avshalom Caves dates back to 1968 when a quarry explosion to loosen the Har-Tuv quarry accidentally unveiled the untouched cave lying below. It was named after an Israeli soldier Avshalom Shoham, as a tribute to his life sacrificed in the War of Attrition.
Avshalom Cave, also known as Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave, is a 5,000 sq m cave in Israel, unique for its dense concentration of stalactites. Image by Jeff Nyveen from Flickr.
Some stalactites in the cave hang up to 4 meters long. On the other hand, many stalactites and stalagmites have conjoined over the years to form a ginormous pillar. They take the form of a variety of oddly shaped structures. Among them are – “elephant’s ears”, the “sculptures garden”, the “macaroni field”, “Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Romeo and Juliette”, and more. These are open to the visitors from the observation area constructed inside the cave that overlooks the entire space.
Although discovered in 1968, Avshalom Cave was not open to visitors for seven years until 1975. Geologists feared its exposure to the public could potentially harm the immemorial natural structures. “Many caves in the world have stalactites, but this one is special because it was sealed before it was revealed by a quarry. So the formations are very pristine and well-preserved because no humans or animals entered before 1968,” says Prof. Amos Frumkin, director of the Cave Research Unit at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Geography Department.
Illuminating in Tricolours
The cave recently had an ecological makeover by installing a lighting system to preserve its natural state. Blue, orange, and green colored lights are artfully placed to illuminate the place and more so for the structures. The lights shift between these colors, making the cave look otherworldly and hallucinogenic.
These lights are not installed just for aesthetics, they serve a purpose. After Avshalom opened its gate to the public, the usage of headlamp lights to guide the visitors caused the growth of algae, triggered by photosynthesis. It possessed severe danger to the form and texture of the structures. If left unattended, the ‘naturally amber, brown, rust, and white, would turn into moss-covered green and black blobs.’ “Just by opening the cave, we changed it and hurt it, so we’re always thinking about what’s best ecologically for the cave,” Saragusti said. “And it’s working. The cave is still alive and growing.”
Image acquired from Xanado.
Scientists explored with a myriad of lights, from cooler LED lights to ultraviolet light. But unfortunately, the algae grew prone to them and continued their growth. Until finally, the scientists installed and settled on the new multi-colored lights that have been working wonders so far! The lights not only retains the pristine condition of the structure, but also adds a dramatic flair to the cave.
How To Visit
Avshalom cave is open to visitors all year round, but only on specific days and times. Per ticket for an adult costs INS 28 (USD 8.88, INR 665) and INS 14 (USD 4.44, INR 334).
Check the official website for the details and reserve your visit at the site online – HERE.
This article is part of TFword’s Where In The World Series, find the previous article from the series below!
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Feature Image Via en.parks.org.