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The Stalactite Caves are in the Judean Mountains and not in the Shefela. Nevertheless, this site is only a short distance from modern-day Bet Shemesh and overlooks the city, and it is a shame to miss it if you are nearby. This is the largest and most beautiful stalactite cave in Israel. Visiting it is a magical experience.

Time: About an hour for a visit starting from the parking lot.

Directions: Enter “Stalactite Cave” into Waze and click on “Soreq Stalactites Cave” or “ שמורת טבע מערת הנטיפים“. Be aware that from the parking lot to the Visitor Center there about 155 stone steps. There are handrails and benches along the way. You can ask for special permission to drive down to the caves. There are restrooms by the parking lot and also by the visitor center. The view from the parking lot over the quarries and Bet Shemesh in the plain below is impressive.

Admission: This is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The site is open Sunday to Thursday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday and holiday eves 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entry is up to an hour prior to closing. It is advised to prebook your time slot to be assured entry, although this is not always essential. Drinks and snacks can be purchased at the visitor center. Strollers and food are not allowed inside the cave. Admission is 28 NIS for an adult, 14 NIS for children 2 to 18 years, and 14 NIS for seniors. Their phone number is 02-991 1117. This is their website.

Public transport:  Look up “Stalactite cave” on Moovit and click on ״Stalactite cave - מערת הנטיפים.״ There is a 3.2 Km/40-minute walk from the nearest bus stop.

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View over Bet Shemesh from the parking lott.

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At your allotted time, you will go to a small auditorium to watch a 9-minute movie about the caves and the formation of stalactites and stalagmites. The movie is in Hebrew with Hebrew and English subtitles.

 

Within the 82 x 62-meter cave you will be walking along a raised walkway with handrails.  There is an initial vista onto its stalactites and differently shaped stalagmites. The cave is pleasantly cool and at 92 to 100% humidity.

 

The topic is reviewed in the movie, but it is helpful to know how stalactites and stalagmites are formed.

 

This cave was revealed by the nearby quarrying. The rock of the Judean Mountains is made of limestone and dolomite. Rainwater percolates through the soil and dissolves the carbon dioxide within the soil to form the weak acid carbonic acid. This is able over time to dissolve the limestone and dolomite and in the process to form caves. This particular cave may have been created some 5 million years ago. This acidic water percolates along cracks in the rock and into the cave as drops of water. As it drops to the floor of the cave, the carbon dioxide is discharged from the water and the calcium carbonate dissolved in the water precipitates to forms stalactites and stalagmites.

 

Stalactites grow downwards from the roof. Around the drop of water from the cave ceiling, the calcium carbonate forms a ring through which the next drop passes. In this way a hollow tube is formed which progressively lengthens at an average rate of 0.2 mm a year. Should the tube get blocked, the water flows over the external surface of the stalactite leading to the formation of stalactites of different shapes.

 

Stalagmites are formed from the floor of the cave upwards. If the rate of dripping is faster than the rate of precipitation, the drop of water falls and shatters on the floor and the calcium carbonate precipitates. Uneven precipitation results in the formation of stalagmites of different shapes. This process is continuing in this cave, as evidenced by drops of water splashing onto the floor.

 

A stalactite and its corresponding stalagmite may also join to form a column. These columns can join together to form screens.

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