Advantages Really interesting place, cool even in the summer
Disadvantages Slightly out of the way, hard to get to, not wheelchair friendly
|Is it worth visiting?|
Israel is a hot country, and certainly there are few places you can visit here that will keep you cool while still enjoying nature. If you're ever in the Jerusalem area and are looking for an interesting visit, I suggest you visit the Avshalom (Sorek) Caves. These are Stalactite caves, and while not the largest in the world (or the country, apparently), are truly beautiful, and are the only ones open to the public.What makes this cave so beautiful is the combination of limestone and dolomite formations that form into flowstone walls (that look like drapes made of fabric) that can be up to 30 meters long, combined with pillars that they say range up to 15 meters high. These walls section the inside of the cave into "rooms" and each section has something different to see.
The tour itself takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and starts with a movie about how the caves were found and how they've been taken care of so that they remain as beautiful as they were when discovered. At one point in the tour, the guide will start a light show that highlights some of the more amazing formations. These guides have a lovely sense of humor, pointing out bits that might remind you of scenes from history or even famous TV shows or movies. Of course, due to the special conditions of any stalactite cave, tours are limited to only a few a day, and there aren't all that many conducted in English (and are limited to groups of 15 or more), so check the tour times before you go (or take a Hebrew speaker who can translate for you).This cave was discovered during mining for what we call "Jerusalem Stone", which is used to cover the buildings in the city. When the discoverers realized what they had, they immediately stopped mining and closed it up to be made into a tourist attraction. It took several years to prepare it for the visitors, and even with all the precautions, some damage to the original cave have occurred. Also, this isn't the largest cave of its type in Israel, but the one they think is far larger (and might very well be the biggest in the world) was closed up immediately after its discovery. That's unfortunate, since one end of that cave is right in the middle of Jerusalem, only about 15 minutes walk from my home, and they say it might extend as far as into Jordan.
The biggest problem with this site is that it is difficult to find and there is little to no public transportation to get you there. It is also a bit expensive, and although you can use major credit cards to pay the entrance fees, it is well worth going with a citizen who may have a discount. Finally, the stairs that lead from the parking lot to the entrance must be climbed back again at the end of your visit. Also, it doesn't have much in the way of refreshments available on the site, either. Still, it's worth the effort and a lovely spot to visit to get away from the heat of an Israeli summer's day. I'd say this is a good four out of five star attraction.
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