Cool cavernous caves

Take advantage of hot summer days by visiting Israel’s many hollows.

An adventurous trek, the Hurvat Madras cave requires some belly crawling through its narrow passageways. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
An adventurous trek, the Hurvat Madras cave requires some belly crawling through its narrow passageways.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The weekend is rolling around again – do you know what you’re going to do in this blazing hot weather? If you’re tired of the beach scene, I have a great suggestion for you: a cool, refreshing visit to a dark cave.
Since temperatures inside these caves remain constant all year long, they are the best place to go for a nature hike on hot summer days.
Namer Cave and Keshet Cave
About 15 minutes from Nahariya are two caves which despite being very close in proximity are nothing like one another. Namer Cave and Keshet Cave are the perfect example of how each cave has its very own character. Whereas Keshet is located high up on the mountainside and has an amazing view overlooking the Galilee, to reach Namer you have to climb deep underground.
Namer is a stalactite cave, and the only way to get in is by crawling on your hands and knees. Once inside, you have to scramble up ladders, and since it’s pitch-dark, it’s best to bring a flashlight.
The cave received its name, which means leopard, from the fact that leopards were apparently hunted there in the 1940s. Although you need to make a bit of effort to get down into the cave, it’s totally worth it because you will find the most fantastic stalactites, some of which have not been damaged by hikers.
To reach the cave, follow the black trail markers until the entrance (try to walk quickly so you can spend more time inside, where it’s nice and cool). There are usually quite a few people hiking down, but just to be sure, pay attention to your surroundings so you don’t miss the entrance. You can’t really see much from outside – there are no hints of the treasures within – so it’s easy to pass right by without noticing.
After you climb up a few steps into the cave, turn on your flashlight, kneel down and start crawling inside.
Little reflectors have been mounted on the cave walls to help you navigate your way through the circular path, which passes through the various rooms and leads to the large open area where you’ll find stalactites. When you’ve finished examining these incredible structures, climb back up.
At times you will need to climb up and down ladders while holding onto hooks inserted in the walls, so if you suffer from fear of heights or claustrophobia, you should probably take this into consideration before entering.
Directions: Drive along Route 899; park your car in the small lot next to the sign for the Namer Cave and the black trail marker.
Beit Guvrin and the Bell Cave
There is so much to say about the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park.
The park is located just east of Kiryat Gat and attracts large numbers of visitors every weekend. This is the perfect time of year to visit because despite the intense heat outside, there are many cool caves in the park. The largest and most impressive caves at Beit Guvrin are the Bell Caves, which are 15 meters high and were carved out of the ground from a narrow opening in the top. Many of them are linked via an underground network of passageways. The caves widen as they go down and are the shape of a bell, hence their name. The writing on the walls in Arabic, and crosses etched into the stone indicate the caves were carved out in the eighth and ninth centuries during the Arabian period (they used the chalk to cover roads).
In addition to the numerous Bell Caves you can also visit the amazing Columbarium Cave, which is also cool and houses a challenging maze.
Directions: The national park is on Road 35 next to Kibbutz Beit Guvrin, between Beit Shemesh and Kiryat Gat.
Hurvat Madras
Hiding within the confines of Park Adullam you’ll find Hurvat Madras.
To reach the hidden caves, follow the blue trail markers, an easy path to traverse. The roof of the cave has fallen in and looks like a huge crater. At the top of this “crater” you’ll find an opening that leads to the caves.
Once you step inside the cool, dark cave, you’ll see a series of rooms and underground areas that can be reached only by crawling on your stomach. Obviously, wear appropriate clothing (you will get very dirty) and don’t forget to bring a flashlight.
As you will soon see, there is only room for people to move through the narrow tunnels in one direction. You enter on the top and exit from the bottom, at which point you’ll need to climb back up a ladder outside the cave. Inside the cave, you’ll crawl through the many cool rooms, including the large columbarium, all of which you’ll be able to see with the light of your flashlight.
Directions: Take Route 38; follow signs to Park Adullam and Hurvat Madras.
Nahal Betzet and Nahal Sarach
The relatively large cave you’ll find at Nahal Betzet and Nahal Sarach is well worth the effort it takes to get there. Make sure you bring a flashlight with you, since the cave has stalactites that are really worth investigating.
There are a few paths to choose from, the shortest taking only a few minutes to traverse. This is a great option if you don’t have much time and would be satisfied with a quick glance at the cave. But if you have time, the longer path – which takes about 90 minutes to complete – is worth your while, though it does require some crawling.
The longer path is heavily covered with plants that are indigenous to the region, and you will cross over the river. Make sure to always pay attention as you walk, so you don’t miss the sign that marks the cave entrance.
Directions: Drive north on Road 899, then follow signs directing you to a dirt path. Park in the Sarach parking area at the end.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.