Welcome to the largest manmade cave in Israel where it is dark, cool and mysterious all year round. The renovated and reopened historical cave extends below a quarter of the Moslem Quarter in the Old City and is entered above ground next to Damascus Gate.
A paved plaza and staircase lead to a small opening through which one enters the dark bell-shaped mouth of the cave, is handed earphones, and begins the descent down a wide flight of stairs through the main halls, etched out of this massive underground cavern of limestone and legend.
Through sound and light, the visitor is immersed in a story that dates back thousands of years in a place that was only discovered by accident in the middle of the nineteenth century.
That discovery brought British scholar Charles Warren to lead an expedition of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Biblical passages such as “And the king (Solomon) commanded, and they quarried great stones to lay the foundation of the house….’ (1 Kings 5:29-32) led Warren and other explorers to understand that the primary activity was quarrying.
Researchers concluded that King Solomon used this cave for quarrying the limestone used in building the Temple Mount.
Warren was also a member of the Free Masons who considered King Solomon to be the order’s patron. Walking through the cave’s rock-hewn galleries and rooms, one can see markings on stone walls indicating that Free Masons in Jerusalem used the Cave as their secret meeting place.
As one descends deeper and darker into the cave, the air becomes cooler and a bit humid. Drops of water may drop on your head. It is said that the cave’s small stream, which is pointed out during the tour, is a collection of King Zedekiah’s tears. He cried and mourned the destruction of Jerusalem as he hid there on his way to Jericho.
The fascinating tour makes one feel like Indiana Jones and is an easy amble for folks of all ages. It is also a phenomenal venue for events from casual meet-and-greet gatherings to gala dinners. The air conditioning is free.