Sunday, May 18, 2008

NBN Tiyul to Haritun Cave

Last Friday I went on a tour with Nefesh B'Nefesh out to the Haritun Cave, which is out in Tekoa. We first went to Herodion, but I'm not going to post any more photos on that one since I already posted them here and Planet Israel isn't going into reruns just yet.

But the Haritun cave, well, there's something new.
Walking on the trail to the cave, there seems to be some sort of ruins. My guess, based on the relatively well-preserved state of the ruins, is that they're Byzantine. But that's just a guess.

Of course, some of us have been taking photography lessons and want to put them into practice.

Impossible building.

One thing we saw that was quite odd, the corner of this building still stands. Can someone please tell me how this is possible?

As mentioned in previous posts, this area of the Judean Desert is riddled with caves, and have always made ideal hiding places when the frequent Jewish revolts against whichever empire happened to be opressing us at the time went awry. But this cave wasn't carved out by scraggly Jewish rebels with hand axes hiding from the armies of Rome. It was carved out by natural forces millions of years ago (am I allowed to say that on a kosher blog?) when this region was submerged (hey, maybe it was during the great flood) and streams of acidic water carved tunnels and crevaces through the rock.
The cliffs were pretty steep. God's hand cuts through granite like a knife through warm butter.

Of course, there was a bit of a wait to get in. The narrow entrance allows only one person at a time.

But once you get in the cave, it looks pretty much like this:

After smashing your head into a few stalagtites (or is it stalagmites), you gradually learn how to walk through a cave. Wave both arms in front of yourself as you walk. If you're going to stand up, place your hand about one foot above your head, and put your tip toes forward before shifting your weight onto your foot, to make sure you don't go careening over a cliff or something.
The cave is actually a network of caves, and it extends over about 5 kilometers, so it's easy to get lost. In order to avoid becoming an archaeological relic yourself, you've got to keep an eye on a cable that runs along the ground.
There were some places where the cave was only about 3 feet wide by 2 feet high, so you have to crawl on your belly just to get through. I couldn't even rest on my elbows, I had to swim through the dirt. Not for the clausterphobic.
Crawling through the narrow spot, which we called the "Birth Canal." The Hanzel-and-Grettel cable is to the left.
But then you come to places where the cavern opens up into a vast chamber.

Of course, you can never stand up for long.
Cave people.
Crawling down a rope ladder in the dark.
On a somber note, as we left the cave, we went hiking through the hills, and came to a different cave. This is the cave where the bodies of Kobi Mandell and Yosef Ish Ran, two students who were murdered by Bedouin while hiking through these hills, were discovered.

It really was a terrible attack, during the beginning of the intifada. It's the sort of thing that anyone who was here at the time can never forget. Kobi's parents began a foundation to help grieving relatives of similar attacks, including a camp for bereaved children.Chava, getting dirty for the shot.

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