There are many cave systems that are attributed to the Bar Kochba period.
The Bar Kochba Revolution
Simon Bar Kochba led the second major rebellion by the Jews against the Romans in 132-136. He was acclaimed as a “Jewish messiah” by Rabbi Akiva and was regarded as a heroic figure who could restore Israel to its greatness. The revolt established an independent state over parts of Judea for about three years.
The revolt was eventually suppressed apparently with great brutality (The Talmud describes some horrific scenes, for example at Betar) and the leaders of the Sanhedrin (supreme religious body) were put to death in a series of brutal executions. Their story is still one of the centerpieces of the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) prayers.
These caves are located near the Adulam reserve. They are a great site for a bit of excitement for a couple of hours, providing you like crawling in narrow spaces. The sign advises that some of the clearances are as narrow as 40 centimeters – and a certain flexibility is required to change from head first to feet first movement in some parts of the system. So going inside the cave is not advised for those who suffer from claustrophobia or have limited mobility.
In fact, this is one of the rare places that allows children and smaller adults to navigate. Children from three years old seem to love it.
It must have been a very challenging way of life to hide out in this system of caves and tunnels for any length of time.
The route is one way – so it’s important to follow the signs. Afterwards the area is very pretty and a good place for a picnic under one of the olive trees. You can sit around and tell the story. I have heard some historical abuse with the revolt being confused with that of the Hasmoneans – no doubt inaccurate but it captures the imagination nonetheless. See our Bar Kochba Gallery.
What to bring with you
You need flashlights for everybody. There is a larger cave where it is possible to stand. It has little alcoves which were probably used to raise birds. Bring matches and candles (optional) for a great atmosphere. Also, bring plenty of water,
The spaces are very narrow so you are advised to bring the minimum with you into the caves – backpacks will have to be pushed and pulled around the system
In case you haven’t guessed you will be dusty at the end of the day. Don’t plan on attending a wedding or cocktail party when you have finished.
Getting to the Bar Kochba caves
The Bar Kochba caves are located on Route 38 a few kilometers south of Ha’Ela Junction.
There is a brown sign pointing towards Churvat Madras (left as you arrive from Ha’Ela Junction). Enter the narrow track and take the right turn at the T junction. Follow the path for a couple of Kilometers until you get to the entrance to a village. Continue on for another 200 meters and then take the right fork in the road. Turn right again and park. A short walk will bring you to the cave entrance.
In the area
Nearby are the Bet Guvrin Caves and Emek Ha’Ela.