A path to the Finger Cave

There are countless options for a sunny weekend walk around the country. With hopes of making the most of the fine weather, we offer you a circular walk best suited for experienced families.

Hiking in the Negev (photo credit: ZIV SHERZER)
Hiking in the Negev
(photo credit: ZIV SHERZER)
Israeli winter is fickle; one moment the sun shines and spreads warmth, and in another a massive storm breaks out with heavy rains and even floods. Yet even in wintertime, when we hear that a sunny weekend is ahead of us, we begin to plan our Saturday family trip.
There are countless options for a sunny weekend walk around the country, for those blessed days when we revel in the sun’s warmth as it fills our spirits with energy. With hopes of making the most of the fine weather, we offer you a circular walk best suited for experienced hikers or families without very small children.
Our goal is to reach the beautiful Etzba [Finger] Cave. The trek will lead us through a charming section of a Mediterranean forest and a cave dating back to prehistoric times, yet rich with folk tales and legends tied to it. The suggested walk also offers stunning views of the sea and the Carmel region.
The route we’ll walk is roughly three kilometers long of fairly easy walking terrain, with some hikes from which to better observe the views. Participants can expect to enjoy themselves, provided they bring comfortable walking shoes! It is also vital to show caution if walking after rainfall, which may make the rocky terrain more slippery. Careful and steady walking should get you to your goal without any issues.
WE BEGIN near Oren junction [Highway 4] and take a right if we are approaching from the south. After a short car ride, you will be able to see the parking space maintained by the Nature and Parks Authority. Two possible treks begin at the parking lot: the circular one, which we will shortly describe, and a back-and-forth trek, which offers a walking experience of the landscape.
As we are not intimidated by the prospect of a walk in nature, we shall head to the southern gate where the path will be marked in black. The markings will lead us to a forest that might look a little hard to pass but also magical. During the roughly one-hour walk we will be able to reach the slopes of the mountain but also pause and enjoy the flowers along the way, such as buttercups and sowbreads. Our walk will allow us to pass through terrain that was burned in the fire of 2010 and so offer us a chance to see how nature is able to repair itself and allow us a careful measure of optimism.
Our walk will lead us to our first point of interest, that of the Etzba ridge, from which we can view Mount Carmel. Yet before we embark onward, please take a moment to enjoy the sight of the rock hyraxes that might, if the day is sunny, take this chance to catch some sun beams.
We follow the path, perhaps after taking some camera shots, and pass through the woods to eventually reach the sight of Atlit Beach. Many use this moment to enjoy some coffee and refreshments as they enjoy the view. Now, after we ascended, we descend with the black markings to the Cave of the Finger.
The short walk is roughly 30 minutes long and leads us to a cave with a narrow entrance that might resemble a finger, hence the name. The cave is dark, and it is suggested not to enter it unless you have electric torches. Those who forgot their torches at home might use their phones. A karst cave, it was created due to the dissolution of soluble rocks. Other such caves exist in the region, but not all of them have been mapped.
Scholars found evidence that Finger Cave had been used by early humans who used it for shelter and left behind stone tools and the bones of the animals they ate.
The reasons for the finger-shaped entrance are varied. One legend has it that the local people were abused by a vicious giant. In their plight they turned to God, and the Lord sent a bee to sting the giant’s finger. The giant was probably allergic and the finger swelled. In a rage, he hit the mountain and the cave was formed.
A variation of the legend keeps the bees and giant but tells a different tale. Now it is the greedy giant who was looking for honey and stuck his finger into the beehive in the cave. The bees declined to share their honey and stung him, and the swelling created the opening as it is now.
Our walk in the cave will lead us into two sections. One is fairly well lit and safe, and the other is darker and not so secure. We will witness lovely stalactites, which will delight young children as well as their adult parents.
We now exit the cave and head down where, after roughly 10 minutes of walking, we will see a British fort once used by the English soldiers who overlooked Atlit. Once we cross the fort we will be able to use stone-carved stairs, only 159 of them, to return to the cars in the parking space.