King Solomon’s Quarry
The mysterious Zedekiah’s Cave is located east of Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. However it is neither Solomon’s Quarry nor Zedekiah’s Cave. It is a 5-acre underground meleke limestone quarry that runs the length of five city blocks under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
This attraction is cheap to enter and will blow your mind Just east of the Damascus Gate there is an innocuous hole in the huge walls to enter. You are entering a quarry, lost for millennium, until 150 yrs ago. Starting as a small cave entrance perhaps 3,000 yr ago, it became the source for Jerusalem Stone which fathered the temples and homes of the inner city.
This cave goes back about 1,000 feet under the northern Old City wall, and about 2,000 years in history. This huge chalky cave, which has always been shrouded by mystery, stretches across 9,000 square meters underneath the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and continues until the Via Dolorosa in the Christian Quarter just north of the Temple Mount. Make that 2,600 years, if you include the legend that gave it its name. An illuminated path leads you far back into the caves and under the Old City. The cavern is thought to have been once used as a storage place for cotton, thus its name in Arabic “Cotton Cave”.
Questions – How did they work the quarry? How did they light and air the quarry? How did they retrieve heavy blocks from the far reaches of the underground quarry? How did they stabilize the Arab section above?
It is said that Zedekiah, Jerusalem’s last biblical king, a Babylonian puppet deposed of during the final siege on the city, attempted to flee Jerusalem to Jericho through this cave. He was captured and brought before the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, where his sons were murdered in front of him and his eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:1-6). In keeping with this tragic story, at the back of the cave is a tiny spring, known as “Zedekiah’s tears.” When you reach the “tears fall” pause by it for 30 seconds to absorb the significance of the place or for a moment of quiet contemplation.
Is there a Jericho Exit?
Jewish and Muslim legends claim that tunnels in those caves extended to the Sinai Desert and Jericho. That is where you discover the cave has no exit. A number of historical sources claim that the cave continues southward to the Temple Mount area, yet we now know that these claims have no basis in fact. A mapping of the cave undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority in recent years debunks this theory.
Whose Quarry is this?
Archaeologists tell us that in fact it was a quarry from which Herod the Great hewed stone to build the Temple. There is no indisputable archaeological evidence that traces quarrying activity in the cave back to the days of the First Temple.
What have the Freemasons got to do with the cave?
The cave’s dramatic lighting reveals signs of the quarrying. In 1868, the first meeting of Freemasons in Ottoman Palestine was held by candlelight in Zedekiah’s Cave. Its impressive dimensions have bestowed another traditional name, meaningful to Masons: “King Solomon’s Quarries.” Because of this, the cave is of special importance to the worldwide Order of Masons, which claims spiritual descent from the original builders of the First Temple.
Bring a flashlight as the cave is only lighted in areas open to visitors but it is also cool to see whats in other parts that are otherwise dark.
NOTE: There is a combo ticket that includes the Caves, Ramparts Walk or the Jerusalem City Walls (definitely recommended) and a few other attractions which makes it a good deal if you want to see as much as you can.
The cave is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
Ron Wyatt, an American Fundamentalist, claimed to have found the Ark of the Covenant by digging in the area of the Garden Tomb. He theorized Jeremiah had taken the Ark to its secret hiding place in Zedekiah’s Cave. According to his believers, a few years before Ron died,” Jewish leaders sent six men, who were descendents of the tribe of Levi, into Zedekiah’s Cave and into the 375′ tunnel which leads to the cave containing the Ark. Their motive was to remove the Ark and destroy Christ’s blood to begin their own sacrifices. After traveling 75 ft. through the tunnel, all were killed by angels guarding the ark. These men were in communication with others in Zedekiah’s cave who were waiting for them. They refused to enter the tunnel to check on the men, as they had heard terrible cries from the dying men over two-way radios. Mr. Wyatt was asked by the Israel Antiquities Authority to retrieve the bodies.”