What to see in Israel | Zedekiah’s Cave (Solomon’s Quarries)

There are several stories about the mysterious Zedekiah’s Cave, a 5-acre underground limestone rock quarry under the Old City of Jerusalem. The stones for Solomon’s temple may have been hewn from this cavern, which is why the site is sometimes called Solomon’s Quarries. By Jewish tradition, it is the cave through which King Zedekiah snuck out of Jerusalem, escaping the Babylonians, hence its name Zedekiah’s Cave. Herod the Great used this quarry for his numerous construction projects including the renovation of the Second Temple.

Zedekiah’s Cave

The stones quarried from the cave are known as Melekh stone which is a high-quality type of limestone which had been used to craft many of the magnificent buildings in Jerusalem since biblical times. Suleiman the Magnificent apparently mined the quarry to build the present-day city walls. The cave was later sealed to prevent enemy attacks and its existence forgotten.

Zedekiah’s Cave

The cave was rediscovered in 1854 when an American missionary named James Turner Barclay discovered the entrance after his dog ran into a small opening that had been revealed by heavy rainfall. In the 1880s, a German religious cult moved into the cave but was eventually evacuated by the German Consul in Jerusalem after many fell ill from living in the damp conditions. The Freemasons believed that King Solomon was the Grand Master, and they regarded this cavern as the ideal location to hold their first ceremony in 1868. The Freemasons of Israel continue to hold an annual ceremony in it every year. The last known use of the quarry was for the building of the clock tower that once stood above the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Clock Tower at Jaffa Gate

Jerusalem Clock Tower above Jaffa Gate / Photo Credit: MadainProject

At first, Zedekiah’s Cave was a small, natural cave. It became a quarry, possibly the largest quarry of Jerusalem in antiquity, and a large space was created following the many quarrying operations carried out there for centuries. After the narrow entrance, the cave slopes down into a vast auditorium-like chamber that leads into many “galleries” carved out by ancient stonecutters. At the back of the cave is a tiny spring known as “Zedekiah’s Tears” in keeping with the tragic story of the blinded king who shed upon losing his kingdom and seeing his sons executed by the Babylonians.

Zedekiah’s Cave

Zedekiah’s Cave

Today, the cave is a major venue for concerts and cultural performances throughout the year. The concert area inside the cave provides a unique experience for both artists and audiences with its exceptional acoustics.

Zedekiah’s Cave

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