Security barrier work uncovers ancient cave complex
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Security barrier work uncovers ancient cave complex

Witness describes find as ‘a breathtaking vision’; expert estimates stalactite-filled cavern to be a million years old

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

View inside the Avshalom Cave also known as the Stalactites Cave. The cave is a 5,000 sq m large, unique for its dense concentration of stalactites. It was cave was discovered accidentally in May 1968, after the use of explosives during development work near Bet Shemesh (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
View inside the Avshalom Cave also known as the Stalactites Cave. The cave is a 5,000 sq m large, unique for its dense concentration of stalactites. It was cave was discovered accidentally in May 1968, after the use of explosives during development work near Bet Shemesh (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

A large cave complex filled with stalagmites and stalactites and thought to be a million years old was discovered in the West Bank near central Israel over the weekend, during construction work to move the security barrier between Israeli and Palestinian territory.

One of the bulldozers working on the project near the settlement of Tzofim uncovered the opening to the cave, and people who entered to investigate were awed by what they saw, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.

Construction work was halted immediately after the discovery, to allow all the relevant parties to examine the finds.

“It’s a breathtaking sight,” Irit Lederberg, a Tzofim resident, told the Hebrew daily. “We’ve been living here for 24 years and didn’t know we had such a gem under our noses.”

Lederberg said it was unclear where the complex began and ended and said it contained deep caverns and large rooms filled with still growing stalagmites and stalactites.

“Everything is humid and cold and you can see active stalactites which ends are still dripping,” she said.

The geological formations — created by water and minerals dripping in limestone caves — are a feature in many caves in Israel. In 1968 workers dynamiting a mountain near Beit Shemesh discovered the large Sorek cave, with an extraordinary dense number of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave was later renamed Avshalom and opened to the public.

Prof. Amos Frumkin, a Hebrew University geologist and the head of Cave Research Unit, was called to the scene soon after the Tzufim cave was opened on Friday. He estimated the cave to be a million years old, but said there was a lot of exploring and testing which needed to be done before official data would be available.

The construction works around the settlement, close to Kfar Saba on the Israeli side of the barrier and Kalkilya on the Palestinian side, were carried out in compliance with a ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice, which ordered the Defense Ministry to move the fence closer to Tzofim following an appeal by Palestinian farmers.

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