Zedekiah's Cave
Zedekiah's Cave – also known as Solomon's Quarries – is a 5 acres (20,234.3 m²) underground meleke
Meleke — also transliterated melekeh or malaki — is a lithologic type of white, coarsely crystalline, thickly bedded limestone found in the Judean Hills in Israel and the West Bank. It has been used in the traditional architecture of Jerusalem since ancient times, especially in Herodian...

Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 quarry that runs the length of five city block
City block
A city block, urban block or simply block is a central element of urban planning and urban design. A city block is the smallest area that is surrounded by streets. City blocks are the space for buildings within the street pattern of a city, they form the basic unit of a city's urban fabric...

s under the Muslim Quarter
Muslim Quarter
The Muslim Quarter is one of the four quarters of the ancient, walled Old City of Jerusalem. It covers 31 hectares of the northeastern sector of the Old City. The quarter is the largest and most populous and extends from the Lions' Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in...

 of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was carved over a period of several thousand years and is a remnant of the biggest quarry in Jerusalem, having once stretched all the way from Jeremiah's Grotto and the Garden Tomb
Garden Tomb
The Garden Tomb , located in Jerusalem, outside the city walls and close to the Damascus Gate, is a rock-cut tomb considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus, and to be adjacent to Golgotha, in contradistinction to the traditional site for these—the Church of the Holy...

 – a traditional Protestant site of Jesus's burial – to the walls of the Old City.


In addition to Zedekiah's Cave and Solomon's Quarries, this site has been called Zedekiah's Grotto, Suleiman's Cave, the Royal Caverns (or Royal Caves or Royal Quarries), and Korah's Cave. The Arabic name Migharat al-Kitan, or "Cotton Cave", has also been used; the cavern is thought to have been once used as a storage place for cotton.


The entrance to Zedekiah's Cave is just beneath the Old City wall, between the Damascus
Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate is the main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the wall on the city's northwest side where the highway leads out to Nablus, and from there, in times past, to the capital of Syria, Damascus; as such, its modern English name is Damascus Gate, and its modern Hebrew...

 and Herod Gate
Herod's Gate
Herod's Gate is a gate in the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Its elevation is 755 meters above sea level. It adjoins the Muslim Quarter, and is a short distance to the east of the Damascus Gate. In proximity to the gate is an Arab neighborhood called Bab a-Zahara, a variation of the Arabic...

s, about 500 feet (152.4 m) east of the former. Beyond the narrow entrance, the cave slopes down into a vast 300-foot-long auditorium-like chamber. Drops of water, known as “Zedekiah's tears”, trickle through the ceiling (See below for the legend associating the cave with King Zedekiah
Zedekiah or Tzidkiyahu was the last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon. He was installed as king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, after a siege of Jerusalem to succeed his nephew, Jeconiah, who was overthrown as king after a reign of only three months and...


Beyond the “auditorium”, are a series of artificial galleries hewn by ancient stonecutters into chaotic, sometimes bizarre, patterns and formations. Paths give access to every corner of the quarry system, which takes at least 30 minutes to explore thoroughly. Chisel marks are visible in many sections and in some galleries huge, nearly finished building blocks destined for some long-ago structure are locked into the rock where the stonecutters left them centuries ago.
In a few places the stones are marked by Arabic, Greek, Armenian and English charcoal and engraved graffiti (e.g., "W. E. Blackstone Jan. 1889"). Several plaques explaining some of the myriad legends associated with the site have been mounted on the cave walls.

From entrance to the furthest point, the cave extends about 650 feet (198.1 m). Its maximum width is about 330 feet (100.6 m) and its depth is generally about 30 feet (9.1 m) below the street level of the Muslim Quarter.


Only the mouth of Zedekiah's Cave is a natural phenomenon. The interior of the cavern was carved by slaves and laborers over a period of several thousand years; precisely when quarrying began is impossible to determine.

Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 (73 BC – 4 BC) certainly used the main quarry at Zedekiah's Cave for building blocks in the renovation of the Temple and its retaining walls, including what is known today as the Western (Wailing) Wall
Western Wall
The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount...

. Stone from the quarry may also have been utilized for the building projects of Herod Agrippa I (10 BC - 44 AD). The subterranean quarry would have been usable in all seasons and any weather. .

When the Roman Jewish writer Flavius Josephus (37 - 100 AD) mentions the "Royal Caverns" of the Old City, it is thought that he is probably referring to Zedekiah's Cave.

The midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 known as Numbers Rabbah
Numbers Rabbah
Numbers Rabbah is a religious text holy to classical Judaism. It is a midrash comprising a collection of ancient rabbinical homiletic interpretations of the book of Numbers ....

 (1512) mentions (and exaggerates) the cave when it says that "One who observed the Sabbath in a cave, even though it be like the cave of Zedekiah, which was eighteen miles long, may walk through the whole of it...".

Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman I was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. He is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as "The Lawgiver" , for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system...

 (1494-1566), the Ottoman sultan who built the present walls around the Old City, also apparently mined the quarry, ultimately sealing it up around 1540 because of security concerns.

The site was then lost to history for over 300 years until, in 1854, the American missionary James Turner Barclay was walking his dog one day. According to the story, the dog, following a fox’s scent, dug through dirt near the Old City wall and suddenly disappeared through an opening. After nightfall, Barclay and his two sons, dressed in Arab garb and carrying candles, slithered through the newly opened crack to discover the vast cavern as well as the skeletons of previous visitors.

The Freemasons of Israel hold an annual ceremony in Zedekiah's Cave, and consider it one of the most revered sites in their history. (Masonic ritual claims that King Solomon was their first Grand Master — and some Freemasons feel that the cave is definitely Solomon's quarry.) According to Matti Shelon, head of the Israeli Freemasons, "Since the 1860s we have been holding ceremonies in the cave". According to the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Israel, the site "has special meaning for Mark Master Masons and the Royal Arch Masons in particular". Starting in the days of the British Mandate (1920s), the cave was used for the ceremony of Mark Master Masons. Although this practice was temporarily suspended between the years 1948 and 1968, the impressive ceremony of the consecration of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Israel was commenced again in the spring of 1969, and ever since then the Mark degree has been performed in the caves on the average of once a year.

In 1873, French archeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau uncovered a crude carving of a cherub in a small niche in the cave. It had two long narrow wings that opened like a pair of scissors, a curled tail and a bearded human head under a conical headdress. (The site is now marked by a plaque.) As cherubs were a popular Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 motif (especially famous are the two giant cherubs flanking the Holy Ark
Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant , also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a chest described in Book of Exodus as solely containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed...

 in Solomon's Temple), the cherub graffiti has been advanced as evidence that the quarry dates from the time of Solomon. .

In the mid-1880s, the cave was occupied by a German religious sect which was eventually evacuated by the German Consul in Jerusalem after many of the group fell ill from living in the damp, unsanitary conditions.

Minor quarrying occurred in 1907 when stone was obtained to be used in the Turkish clock tower over the Jaffa Gate. Otherwise, the site was not frequented again until the 1920s, when it began to be something of a tourist attraction .

Recent developments

  • In the late 20th Century, the East Jerusalem Development Corporation carried out restorations of the cave.
  • In the mid-1980s, The Jerusalem Foundation
    Jerusalem Foundation
    The Jerusalem Foundation is an international non-profit organization whose goal is the improvement of the quality of life for all citizens of Jerusalem. It was founded in 1966 by the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. The foundation is politically not affiliated...

     built paths and installed lights throughout the cavern, facilitating tourist access.
  • The cave is open daily from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and an entrance fee is charged. Visits may be self-guided or part of an organized tour of the Old City.


  • The most revered legend about the cave is that it served as the quarry for King Solomon’s First Temple. However, there is no historical or archeological evidence to support this. (The meleke limestone of the quarry– which is strong, well suited to carving, and resistant to erosion – is thought to have been used for royal buildings. The name "meleke" is derived from Hebrew and Arabic words meaning “kingly” or “royal”.)

  • Writing in the 10th Century A.D., Moslem geographer and writer el-Mukaddasi
    Muhammad ibn Ahmad Shams al-Din Al-Muqaddasi , also transliterated as Al-Maqdisi and el-Mukaddasi, was a medieval Arab geographer, author of Ahsan at-Taqasim fi Ma`rifat il-Aqalim .-Biography:Al-Muqaddasi, "the Hierosolomite" was born in Jerusalem in 946 AD...

     said: "There is at Jerusalem, outside the city, a huge cavern. According to what I have heard from learned men, and also have read in books, it leads into the place where lie the people slain by Moses
    Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

    . But there is no surety in this, for apparently it is but a stone quarry, with passages leading therefrom, along which one may go with torches." The "people slain by Moses" refers to a story that appears in both the Bible and the Koran about a man named Korah
    Korah or Kórach Some older English translations, as well as the Douay Bible), spell the name Core, and many Eastern European translations have Korak...

     (Arabic, Karun) who mounted a revolt against Moses and his brother Aaron
    In the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Aaron : Ααρών ), who is often called "'Aaron the Priest"' and once Aaron the Levite , was the older brother of Moses, and a prophet of God. He represented the priestly functions of his tribe, becoming the first High Priest of the Israelites...

    , maintaining that they had led the children of Israel out of Egypt under false pretenses. According to the Old Testament, Korah and his fellow rebels were swallowed up by the earth; according to el-Mukaddasi, this occurred at what is now known as Zedekiah's Cave.

  • The legend that the cave was a hiding place of King Zedekiah (a 6th Century BC Judean king) dates back to at least the 11th Century AD. At that time, Biblical commentator Rashi
    Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

     wrote that Zedekiah tried to escape from the troops sent by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar
    Nebuchadnezzar was the name of several kings of Babylonia.* Nebuchadnezzar I, who ruled the Babylonian Empire in the 12th century BC* Nebuchadnezzar II , the Babylonian ruler mentioned in the biblical Book of Daniel...

     to besiege Jerusalem. (The story was also repeated in the next century by the commentator Radak.) According to Rashi: “There was a cave from the palace of Zedekiah to the plain of Jericho and he fled through the cave." He added that God sent a buck running along the surface on top of the cave as Zedekiah was walking down below. The soldiers chased the buck and arrived at the exit of the cave just as Zedekiah was coming out, enabling them to capture and blind him. Thus was born the legend and name of “Zedekiah's Cave”. (The considerable distance between Jerusalem and Jericho — about 13 miles (20.9 km) — reflects the legendary nature of the story.)

  • In 1968, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem contacted the Israeli Ministry of Finance
    Finance Ministry (Israel)
    The Israeli Ministry of Finance is a part of the Israeli political system. It is responsible for planning and implementing the Government of Israel’s overall economic policy....

     with a claim that, during the Ottoman period, his grandfather had buried three cases of gold in Zedekiah's Cave . He claimed he could show officials where the treasure was buried in return for 25 % of the gold. The Ministry agreed, but, according to The Jerusalem Post
    The Jerusalem Post
    The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli daily English-language broadsheet newspaper, founded on December 1, 1932 by Gershon Agron as The Palestine Post. The daily readership numbers do not approach those of the major Hebrew newspapers....

    , after digging a deep hole no gold was found .

External links

31.782108°N 35.23074°W
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.