Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve

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The Reserve encompasses an extensive natural woodland area and the largest and most beautiful stalactites-stalagmites cave in Israel

The descent into the cave is a visit to a magical fairy-tale world of stone statues created by Mother Nature - stalactites and stalagmites in a multitude of shapes that stimulate the imagination of both young and old, providing a spectacular experience.

Major Centers of Interest

  • Outside Observation Area - east/west view, to the city of Bet Shemesh and the active quarries.  The cave was discovered thanks to the work of these quarries.
  • Inside Observation Area - view of the vast cavern, the shapes of stalactites and stalagmites and the special artificial lighting.
  • Spectacular Stalactite and Stalagmite Shapes, among them the "grandfather" of the cave, the "elephant ears" column, the sculptures garden and the "macaroni field". 

 

Particulars of the major centers of interest:

  • Outside Observation Area - the outside observation area is close to and outside the opening of the cave.  It provides a view of the extent of the Nature Reserve, towards extensive parts of the Judea plain, among them the city of Bet Shemesh.  In good visibility conditions it is even possible to see as far as the city of Ashdod.  At the foot of the observation area is the quarry whose work exposed the cave some decades ago.
  • Observation Area Inside the Cave - at the front of the cave there is an observation area providing an overall view of the vast cavern.  The raised platform gives a panoramic view of the variety of shapes of the stalagmites and stalactites and the special artificial lighting illuminating parts of the cave in lively colors.
  • Spectacular Stalactite and Stalagmite Shapes - the cave is full of stalactites and stalagmites, which accompany the visitors all along the route.  Among others, there are the "pillar", the "elephant's ears", the "sculptures garden", the "macaroni field", "Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Romeo and Juliette" - a stalactite and stalagmite that are almost, but not quite, kissing each other, and many others. 

 

Observing the View


The scenery of the Judean plain is spread out for visitors to see on the way from the parking lot to the cave.

Identity card


Status:  The Nature Reserve was declared in 1975.


Reasons for the Declaration:

  • To preserve the unique natural site
  • To preserve the continuation of karst processes in the cave and the vicinity
  • To open the cave for visits by the public, on the one hand, and to minimize the damage deriving from this exposure - on the other
  • To educate to preserve inanimate natural values
  • To protect the fauna and flora typical of the Judean hills

 

Location in Israel:  On the western slopes of the Judean hills, a few kilometers east of Bet Shemesh.

Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority​

  • The cave was discovered by chance in 1968, after a routine explosion in the nearby Hartuv quarry.  The explosion created an opening on the hillside and revealed the cave.  Subsequently, the area above it was declared a nature reserve, and work in the quarry was discontinued.  The Nature and Parks Authority prepared the cave for the public in a way that assures its preservation and prevents damage to the rare natural values in it.  The cave was opened to the general public about a decade after it was discovered.
  • The slow creation of the stalactites and stalagmites in the cave continues to take place even now, although they are sensitive and vulnerable.  Changes in temperature, humidity and concentrations of carbon dioxide due to the exposure of the cave to the air and the entry of the public could interfere with the continued development of the cave and cause damage.  In order to maintain the balance between the experience of a good-quality visit and the preservation of this unique natural resource, the Nature and Parks Authority invests great efforts in managing the visits to the site, and in research and monitoring activities.
  • In 2012, the Nature and Parks Authority installed a new lighting system that is both ecological and artistic.  It consists of LED lights that do not emit heat, with wavelengths that prevent the development of algae.  The new lighting system not only preserves the cave, but also emphasizes the beauty of the stalactites and  stalagmites and creates a magical atmosphere that stimulates visitors' imagination by the shapes and images reflected from them.
  • In Memory of Avshalom - the Sorek Cave is dedicated to the memory of Avshalom Shoham, an IDF soldier who was wounded during his military service and died of his wounds three years later, in 1974.  Avshalom's family and friends assisted in developing the cave and preparing it for the general public, thus perpetuating his memory. 

Fauna and Flora

The area of the Reserve around the cave consists of a Mediterranean plant habitat, with many animals, among them deer and foxes, woodland birds and raptors.  The Reserve is adjacent to the Judean Hills National Park.

The stalagmite cave is part of the Nature Reserve and in its vicinity one can enjoy the Mediterranean plants typical of the Judean Hills.   Part of the region is dominated by woodland trees - Palestine oak (Quercus calliprinos), terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus) and Jerusalem Pine (Pinus halepensis). Other areas are more open, and there the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), spiny broom (Calicotome spinosa), thorny burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum) and buckthorns (Ramnus) can be found.  In this Reserve, dozens of species of geophytes and various flowers bloom in the spring.  The fauna in the Reserve include deer, foxes and jackals, various species of rodents, lizards, woodland birds and raptors.
 

Geology

The Sorek cave was created due to dissolving and precipitating processes of dolomite and limestone rocks which created many stalactites and stalagmites in a variety of shapes, such as "macaroni" stalactites, columns, cave corals, curtains, "elephant ears" and a multitude of other shapes.

 

The Creation of the Sorek Cave

Stalactite caves are created in limestone and dolomite rocks.  First comes the process of dissolving the rock:  rainwater percolating through the soil dissolves the highly-concentrated carbon dioxide in the soil, making it into a weak acid, called "carbonic acid", which is capable of dissolving the limestone and dolomite rocks in a very slow process that takes thousands of years.  The acidic water percolates along cracks, widens them and creates cavities which grow and become caves.  When the drop of water reaches the cave - the process of precipitation begins:  the carbon dioxide that was in the water is discharged, and consequently the limestone material (calcium carbonate) that was dissolved in the water precipitates and builds the stalactites, the stalagmites and all the other precipitation forms in the cave.  The dispersal of the stalactites and stalagmites in the cave is not random - their order follows the order of the cracks in the roof of the cave.

  • Stalactites - grow from the roof of the cave downwards.  Around the drop of water that reaches the cave ceiling, the calcium carbonate forms a kind of ring, through which the next drop passes.  Ring is added to ring, creating a thin hollow tube through which flow the drops of water.  These tubes grow very slowly, at an average rate of 0.2 mm. a year.  When such a tube is blocked, the water starts flowing over the external surface of the stalactite, and its shape changes into a cylinder - thick at its base on the ceiling, and narrow at the point where the water drips.  Sometimes the flow of water is not uniform, and the stalactites develop into asymmetrical shapes and create "curtains" and "elephant's ears".
  • Stalagmites - the drops of water dripping from the roof of the cave and from the stalactites create the stalagmites - precipitation growing from the floor of the cave upwards.  When the rate of drip is faster than the rate of precipitation, the drops fall, shatter on the floor, and only then does the material dissolved in them precipitate.  This uneven precipitation creates stalagmites in various forms:  "Mexican sombreros", "pagodas", and a plethora of other forms.  The stalactite and the stalagmite underneath it could unite and create a column.  These columns could also join each other, creating screens, thus dividing the cave into smaller areas.  All these amazing shapes were formed over thousands of years, but many areas in the cave are still active, and the stalactites and stalagmites in them continue to grow.  This is evidenced by the sound of water dripping and splashing on the floor of the cave.  In order for the creative processes of the cave to continue, it is very important to maintain stable climatic conditions:  22-23 degrees C and 90-100 percent humidity.
  • The stalactite/stalagmite cave as a research tool - alongside the beauty of the cave, it serves as a window into what is occurring underground.  By examining concentrations of tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen), it is possible to learn the period of time it takes for rainwater to reach the cave from the surface.  It was found that the migration of water into the Sorek cave is not uniform - from a few days to 35 years.  The creation of stalactite caves is a very long process, and therefore the cave contains within it a great deal of important information on ancient climate and earthquakes.  In the course of their creation, stalactites and stalagmites document the composition and quantity of rainwater, temperatures in the vicinity and the type of vegetation throughout the periods in which they were created.   Thus it is possible to reconstruct climatic conditions that prevailed in our region in recent millennia.  Other studies use the signs of collapse in the cave and broken stalactites and stalagmites to date ancient earthquakes.

How to get there:

Coming from Highway 1:   At Sha'ar HaGai junction turn south to Road 38.  At the second traffic light, turn left to Road 3855.  At the second roundabout turn left to Road 3866 and go up the hill about 5 kms until the left turn to the Stalactite cave.

Coming from the south:  Turn right at Ha'Ela junction onto Road 375, then turn left again after Etzyona junction onto Road 3855.  At the fourth roundabout turn right onto Road 3866 and go up the hill about 5 kms until the left turn to the cave.

Coming from the East, from the Ein Kerem roundabout:  Drive southwards on Road 386.  At Bar Giyora junction turn right onto Road 3866, and drive west about 5 kms until the right turn to the cave.

From Tsur Hadassa and Mevo Betar:  Turn right from Road 375 onto Road 386.  Drive  to Bar Giyora junction, turn left and drive about 5 kms to the right turn to the cave.

A prominent reference point for the turn in the direction of the Cave is the Challenger monument in the form of a hand holding a satellite dish.

 

Length of tour:

About 45 minutes

Waiting time between tours - up to 25 minutes

Entry into the cave is accompanied by a short video and instruction

The tour of the cave may take place only accompanied by a guide on behalf of the Reserve.

Single persons will be attached to a group before entering the cave.

 

Recommended season: All year round

Ideal to visit during the rainy winter season

 

What else is there?

Video on the creation of the cave, local instruction and souvenir shop

Opening Hours

Entrance into the Park is closed one hour before the times given below:

Summer Time:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 17:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:           8:00 - 16:00

 

Standard Time (Winter):

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 16:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:           8:00 - 15:00

 

During Succot and Pesach, instruction will take place up to 11:00, based on the number of visitors.

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach:  8:00 - 13:00

Communication

Tel: 02-9911117, 02-999730, 02-9915756

e-mail:  st.netifim@npa.org.il

Fax general:  02-9990215, including reservations center

Fax box office (for sending vouchers): 02-6259030

Entrance Fees

Single: Adult:  NIS 28;  Child:  NIS 14

Student:  NIS 24

Group (over 30 persons, group payment): Adult: NIS 23; 
Child:  NIS 13

Coordination of groups by means of the above fax OR

UBy means of the form attached here.

​Tours in English  to independent visitors

 
Between April and September, guided tours will take place on weekdays at 16:00, and at 15:00 on Fridays.
 
Between October and March ,guided tours will take place  at 15:00 on weekdays , and at  14: 00 on Fridays.
 
Visitors Must arrive fifteen minutes before the beginning of the tour. Groups (of over 30 people)  seeking  tours in English , must be booked in advance through the reservations center.

 

Parking

Upper parking, and from the box office 150 stairs lead to the cave.

Baby carriages and strollers cannot enter the cave

Entry of dogs

Dogs are forbidden to enter the cave

Further information

 Click here for site pamphlet


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

     In the Stalactite Cave (Soreq Cave) Nature Reserve adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    Vehicle and Foot Access – Steep stairs lead from the upper parking lot and ticket office to the cave level. Accessible to people with mobility impairments by private vehicle only. Call ahead of your arrival (020-991-1117) to make prior arrangements to avoid a long wait. Visits from organized groups of people with mobility impairments must be prearranged with the reservation center, by fax – 02-999-0215.

    Visiting the Cave – Headphones for the hearing impaired with increased volume, an introductory film with subtitles, the first observation platform is accessible with a wheelchair lift.

    Important Information:

    1.  For safety reasons, the circular route cannot be done in reverse.
    2. The walk through the cave includes stairs and slippery sections.
    3. No dogs are allowed, including service dogs.
    4. There is an accessible restroom.

    31.755835,35.024272
    Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve