Israel's Good Name

Pigeon Cave & Betzet Reserve

In Galilee, Israel on May 7, 2017 at 10:42 AM

I spent the holiday Pesach (also known as Passover) with my family in Ma’alot and managed to go on three short trips whilst up north. The first was to the tidal pools just north of Achziv, where I saw my first sea slug (or sea hare, I am not sure which). The next day we stopped off for a short hike to Pigeon Cave, located between Karmiel and Akko, on our way to Ahihud for an annual barbecue. Parking with the aid of GPS in a gravel lot somewhat near the cave, we disembarked and began the short hike.

Above Pigeon Cave

Almost immediately I spotted an interesting bird – my first wheatear, and then a few minutes later my first short-toed eagle made a lengthy appearance, hovering overhead scanning for his favourite prey, snakes. At first the trail was a simple gravel-and-grass path with red painted trail markers, but that was soon to change. In order to reach the cave, and to continue on the trail towards the opposing Mount Gamal, the trail took a perilous turn along the steep cliff side. Thankfully, the shoes I was wearing that day – loafers not meant for hiking in any way – found sure footing on the craggy rock with their “sticky” rubber soles. I nimbly made my way down and around towards the mouth of the cave, passing interesting wildlife and wildflowers.

Broad-leaved stonecrop

We found Pigeon Cave fenced off with visible archaeological-work inside, so we continued to the adjacent cave which was open to visitors, with a handful of rock-climbers scaling the cliff wall with ropes nearby.

Pigeon Cave

Pigeon Cave is the site of important prehistoric findings, as I learned about in two of my Archaeology classes at BIU. In one class we learned about the large amount of limestone with the cave, with remains of prehistoric buildings – some of which covered graves – which leads researchers to think the structures were cultic is purpose. Just outside the open cave I noticed something unusual looking on the ground among the rocks and vegetation – what appears to be the spout of a Byzantine vessel, according to a friend of mine.


We entered the empty cave and glanced about, noticing the large hole in the ceiling and the general bell-shape, defining the type of cave it is. Leaving the cave, we watched the climbers for a bit then headed back up the craggy trail and back to the car to drive to Ahihud.

Nissim within the cave

A few days later my father and I took a short hiking trip in Betzet Reserve along the Old Northern Road near the border with Lebanon. Unfortunately, even though the site we had chosen to visit is relatively obscure, there were masses of families with picnics and yelling child which invariably scared off all wildlife for miles. But, there was still a healthy amount of flora and as we walked along the gentle trail to see the Daniela ruins we feasted our eyes on hyacinth squill, lupin, mallow and some sort of wild pea.

Daniela ruins

The Daniela ruins (also spelled De’ne’ilah) is a collection of Roman-Byzantine fortified farmhouses with olivepress installations, as is typical of the Galilee region with its historical olive oil industry.

Olivepress installations

Looping back to the parking lot on the circular trail we then located and began hiking the trail to the next destination: Sarach Cave. We passed very little wildlife, due to the large human presence, but we did see a number of interesting wildflowers including the delicately-petaled pink rock rose and red everlasting, the icon of Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day). Before long we left the sunny flowered area and were hiking under the shade of the trees, walking in and along the dry streambed filled with boulders. Nachal Sarach is a short stream that begins not far from Abirim Fort, feeding winter rain runoffs into Nachal Betzet which drains to the Mediterranean Sea near Rosh HaNikra. Hiking briskly, we heard the clammer of humanity up ahead and a brief check with the GPS told me that we were approaching the cave.

Sarach Cave in Betzet Reserve

To our dismay there was actually a line in order to enter this obscure cave, and so we stood behind an young Arab family with a GoPro awaiting our turn to penetrate the darkness. Despite the presence of so many children, there were no screams of terror when two enormous cave spiders were found on the walls – a species of huntsman by the name of Heteropoda variegata found mostly in caves.

Within Sarach Cave

Slowly but surely we made our way through the interesting cave with its three entrances/exits and its neat cave growths, our journey aided by special cuts in the rock for sure footing and even metal handles like we used in Alma Cave.

My father rising from the depths

Emerging out of the upper entrance/exit of the cave, we made our way back downhill to the streambed and headed back to the car, bringing the Pesach trips to an end.

  1. I was at the Pigeon cave that day with my son. We passed you and your family and I said to him I thought I knew you but couldn’t think how.Only afterwards I realised I recognised you from your blog – we never met… 🙂

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