A magical mystery world

The Soreq caves have a fascinating display of stalactite and stalagmite formations.

soreq cave 88 (photo credit: )
soreq cave 88
(photo credit: )
A window into a magical world deep underground in the Judean Hills was uncovered by accident in the late l960s. When the smoke and dust settled after quarry workers blasted away an area of rock face, they found themselves staring at some incredible stalagmites and stalactites down below. Later on it became clear that they had uncovered only a tiny part of the damp world of wonder and natural creativity of nature, a nip 'n' tuck under the hills. After the workmen discovered their corner of the cave, it took more than a decade for the site to be prepared and opened so that the general public could bask in the underground splendor. Lighting, walkways, and an air system that would not harm nature's exhibits around the cavern were installed. An explanatory film was made about these clinging creatures of the up-and-down cave world. The movie is screened at the entrance, so already a significant amount of information is given before the guide invites visitors to enter the seemingly ageless stalactite and stalagmite community. The cave is off the beaten track and had lain undiscovered for many years. Even today, the journey to Soreq offers breathtaking views through clearings in the vast forests of the Judean Hills. Part of the Avshalom Nature Reserve, the Soreq cave is situated near Beit Shemesh (house of the sun), although not a single ray of sunshine or natural light penetrated the natural formations created over thousands of years by minerals and dripping water. The Avshalom reserve is named for Avshalom Shoham, who died from wounds sustained in the War of Attrition and whose family and friends helped the Nature Reserves Authority develop the site. Some years passed before the public was allowed to wander through the cave and view the ancient formations in the Judean Hills underworld of Soreq. The cave is a now popular site for Israeli day trippers, but not quite on the overseas tourist itinerary. On a recent visit to the cave, the line outside was long. Once inside, I found that the wait was worth every minute, and even repeat visitors find themselves "oohing" and "aahing" like they did the first time. Although the cave, situated 385 meters above sea level, is relatively small in comparison to similar sites in other countries, Soreq is unique in that all known formations of stalactites and stalagmites can be found within. The cave floor and ceiling are covered in fantastic works of Mother Nature's art. The shapes and formations are astounding, and rich in magnificent shades of yellow, orange, and red. Using a flashlight that threw out a small probing light, the guide pointed out specific formations. Some resemble sculpted figurines of human beings, including a few convincing look-alikes. Much to the delight of the group, the guide demonstrated how one of the formations looks like Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Relatively close to Moses on the Mount is another likeness of an elderly bearded gentleman, dubbed Father Christmas - hood and all. An interesting pair, one hanging from the ceiling and the other rising from the cave floor, has been named "The Kiss." The few meters-long stalactite and stalagmite are only about a thumbwidth apart, but another slog of some 50 years on the slow drip trail will have to transpire until they get to have that long-awaited union of the tips of their lips.