Jerusalem, at the Damascus Gate.
Winter Sat-Thu 9-16.
Summer Sat-Thu 8-17.
Online tickets sold on the official website.
Currently closed due to COVID 19.
Adults NIS 20, Children (5-18) NIS 10, Students NIS 10, Soldier NIS 10, Senior NIS 10.
Groups (25+): Adults NIS 12.
|Incandescent Electric Light System
|self guided, D=30 min.
Thomas L. Friedman (1985):
Quarrying History in Jerusalem,
New York Times, 1 December 1985.
A. Sasson (2002): Zedekiah’s Cave – Evidence of Traditional Quarrying Methods in the Land of Israel, In Y. Eshel (ed.), Studies of Judea and Samaria 11. Ariel. Pp. 345-358 (Hebrew). State of Israel Archives.
|East Jerusalem Development Ltd. Company, P.O Box 412, Shlomzion Ha’malka str. 18, Jerusalem, 9100301, Tel: +972-2-6277550, Fax: +972-2-6277936. E-mail:
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|First Temple period
|begin of underground quarrying.
|Second Temple period
|main quarrying period.
|sealed by the Fatimids.
|quarries accidentally rediscovered by the American minister James Turner Barclay, who explored and surveyed them.
|Palestine Exploration Fund expedition in Jerusalem, headed by Charles Warren, was a member of the Free Masons.
|first recorded Masonic ceremony in Israel held in the Cave of Zedekiah.
|East Jerusalem Development Ltd. established.
|opened to the public.
|faked gold treasure not discovered.
|paths built and lights installed by The Jerusalem Foundation.
|site renovated by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
Beneath the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem, close to the Shaar Shchem (Damascus Gate), lies a cave opening leading to huge subterranean limestone quarries. The quarries extend north from the Temple area to the hill on which Jesus Christ was crucified and from the Damascus Gate to the Via Dolorosa. The huge 9,000 m² structure is the largest man-made cavern in Israel. The quarry was mined since the First Temple period until the early 20th century. Several stone cutting methods which are attributed to the First Temple period have been identified in the quarry. But the heydays were during the Second Temple period. The exact times when it was mined and when not are unknown, the dating is only possible by the used tecniques. Most likely the entrance was sealed in the 11th century by the Fatimids for strategic reasons. They feared that the quarry would allow their enemies to get under the city and to break their way into the city from below. Such strategies were quite common at that time and successfully used in sieges. In any case the quarries were abandoned and forgotten, when the American minister James Turner Barclay rediscovered them in 1854. He explored and surveyed them, and his publications made the quarries known among 19th century travellers. Probably the last stones which were mined here were used to build the Clock Tower standing above the Jaffa Gate in the early 20th century. It was destroyed during the British Mandate.
The entrance to Zedekiah's Cave is located beneath the Old City wall, between the Damascus and Herod Gates. From the entrance, the main path leads south for nearly 200 m until it reaches the main chamber called The Freemasons Hall. From this hall a tunnel leads east to the dripping spring and the lowest place of the quarry. Drops of water, known as Zedekiah's tears, trickle through the ceiling. The whole quarry has an irregular shape, with huge chambers and some pillars. This is quite exceptional, it seems the rock is very stable to allow such huge structures.
According to legend this is the place were the rocks for King Solomon's Temple, the First Temple built more than 2,500 years ago by King Solomon, originated from. As a result the rock which was mined here is called meleke, which is derived from Hebrew and Arabic words meaning “kingly” or “royal”.
There is no historical or archaeological evidence to support this. But the legend is the reason why this place was generally called King Solomon's Quarries for senturies. Under this name it was known during the 19th century and is described in numerous travelogues. In the 19th century it was open freely and brave travellers went in with lanterns and local guides.
Another name is Cave of Zedekiah, Jeremiah's Grotto, or Tzidkiyahu Cave. The site is today operated as a tourist site which is officially known under the name Zedekiah’s Cave. This is due to the following legend about the quarries.
Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. At this time the kingdom was tributary to Babylon, but he allied with Pharaoh Hophra and revolted against them. The siege of Jerusalem began in January 589 BC and lasted about thirty months. As the Babylonian armies under Nebuchadnezzar II. took the city of Jerusalem and began with the destruction of Jerusalem, he fled from his palace through this secret underground structure. But he was captured on the plains of Jericho and taken to Riblah. His sons were killed, he was blinded and imprisoned in Babylon where he finally died.
Another legend refers to a story that appears in both the Bible and the Koran about a man named Korah (Arabic, Karun) who mounted a revolt against Moses and his brother Aaron. They claimed that Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt under false pretenses. According to the Old Testament the "rebels" were swallowed up by the earth. It seems freedom of speech was not yet invented at that time. The part that this happened at this quarry is not mentioned in the Bible or the Koran, it is mostly based on the following text.
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.
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.
Moslem geographer and writer el-Mukaddasi, 10th century.
The underground quarry explains what is written in the Bible: no sound of metallic tools was heard at the building site of the Temple. If the stones were dressed underground, no noise would have reached the Temple site.
In 1867 the Palestine Exploration Fund expedition arrived in Jerusalem. Their head was Charles Warren, was a member of the Free Masons who considered King Solomon to be the order’s patron. Obviously this site has close connections to masonry, as it produced the stones of one of the most important buildings of mankind. This might have been a reason for Dr. Robert Morris, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, to direct a Secret Monitor Ceremony in the Cave of Zedekiah in 1868. He was a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts. This is the simple reason why the main chamber is called The Freemasons Hall.
Another important source of trivia, we are not sure if these are legends or fact, is the letter sent by the director of the Mandatory Department of Antiquities to the head secretary of British government on February 27, 1946. He writes that the quarry is also called the Caverns of the Kings that were mentioned by Josephus in his description of the Third Wall in Jerusalem (Wars of the Jews 5.4.2). He also refers to above legend about the rebels against Moses and tells “the caves are also mentioned by Mujir al-Din in the fifteenth century when they were called Migharat al-Kitan". He translates the arabic name as Cotton Cave, and from 1873 this name appears on various maps, also in the form Cotton Grotto.
In 1968, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem contacted the Israeli Ministry of Finance. He claimed that his grandfather had buried three cases of gold in the quarry during the Ottoman period. He offered to show officials where the treasure was buried in return for 25% of the gold. The Ministry agreed, but, according to The Jerusalem Post, after digging a deep hole no gold was found.
The visit to the quarries is self-guided, but it is also a part of several guided tours through the city, so the tour guides will also guide through the quarry. We guess you could eavesdrop, if such a tour happens during your visit.