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‘Huge’ ancient stalactite cave found near Jerusalem

Officials keeping location of vast cavern secret as they explore it; discovery was revealed by chance during construction work

A new stalagmite and stalactite cave discovered in the Jerusalem Hills (photo credit: Lior Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority)
A new stalagmite and stalactite cave discovered in the Jerusalem Hills (photo credit: Lior Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority)

A large stalactite and stalagmite cave was recently discovered in the Jerusalem hills, it was announced on Saturday. But the location is being kept secret, so as to ensure the public does not enter before steps have been taken to ascertain how the ancient cavern and its formations can be preserved.

The cave, which was described in initial reports as “huge,” was uncovered during construction work in the region. Officials at the Nature and Parks Authority are now working along with members of the Hebrew University’s Cave Research Unit to investigate and map out the cavern.

The exact location of the cave is being kept secret as officials said they did not want people wandering into it, for their own safety as well as for the sake of preserving the rare geological phenomenon. The same process of secrecy was initially maintained almost 50 years ago, when the renowned Avshalom stalactite cave near Beit Shemesh — some of whose formations date back 300,000 years — was first found.

“The first action we are taking in order to preserve the place is closing off the cave,” Uri Naveh, deputy head of the Nature and Parks Authority’s central district, told Hebrew news site Walla News. “That way we can maintain the humidity and the geological conditions which prevailed in the cave up until now with minimal interference.”

Inside the new cave (Lior Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority)
Inside the new cave (Lior Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority)

“Stalactites and stalagmites are a natural phenomenon protected by law,” Naveh said. “That is why, at this stage, we will be barring entrance to the cave, other than for the researchers who will be entering to work there.”

Stalactites and stalagmites are created by the slow dripping and depositing of material — often limestone — in underground caves over many thousands of years.

The Avshalom stalactite cave outside Beit Shemesh, discovered accidentally in May 1968 during development work (Photo credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
The Avshalom stalactite cave outside Beit Shemesh, discovered accidentally in May 1968 during development work (Photo credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

Israel’s most famous and most impressive stalactite cave is the Avshalom Cave, also known as the Soreq Cave, which is situated just outside of Beit Shemesh and is a popular tourist attraction. The Avshalom Cave extends over 5,000 square-meters, and is unique for its dense concentration of stalactites. Like the latest find, it was discovered by chance, in May 1968, after the use of explosives during development work. It is named after Avshalom Shoam, an Israeli soldier who killed in the War of Attrition.

After its discovery, the location of the cave was kept secret for several years for fear of damage to its natural treasures.

Some of the stalactites in the Avshalom cave have been dated to as much as 300,000 years old. As long as four meters, some of the stalactites have grown to meet stalagmites and thus form stone pillars.

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