Saturday, February 20, 2010

Maarat HaNetifim - Israel's Stalactite Cave

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After Maya came home from school last week talking about
Maarat HaNetifim, Israel's Stalactite Cave, also called Sorek Cave, and asking to go we realized that it had in fact been years since we'd been. The last time we'd visited Maya had been an infant and Itai a young preschooler so obviously neither remembered being there. It was high time for a repeat visit.
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Our hearts sank when we arrived and saw that half the country had apparently had the same idea today but the Park authorities kept things surprisingly well organized. Despite the crowds we didn't wait more than ten minutes for the next tour and once inside didn't feel at all crowded or rushed.
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The cave itself is amazing. It's small (only 5 dunams, just over an acre) but the formations inside are incredibly dense and extraordinarily diverse, rivaling caves many times its size in other countries.
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After a short movie chronicalling the discovery of the cave just forty years ago our group went inside. Once there our guide provided a bit more explanation (and reemphasized the absolutely positively no touching rules) and pointed out some of the highlights, and then turned us loose to move through the cave (via a wooden walkway) at our own pace. Flash photography was strongly discouraged (no loss, it would have given horribly washed out glary looking images anyway) but as you can see I still managed to keep myself well amused by cranking the ISO up high and concentrating on the areas which had their own lighting.
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As an added bonus, the wildflowers were blooming all over the park, making the walk to and from the cave entrance an absolute delight. The cyclamen in particular were really at their peak. I'd never realized how often they sprout right out from a crevace in a rock. The grouping you see below had me utterly beguiled. (And in the interest of honest reporting, lest anyone think I actually know anything about flowers, my six year old had to tell me that these were cyclamen. (Actually she used the Hebrew name - rakafot - I then had to go home and look up the English translation to figure out that these were cyclamen.) Israeli schoolchildren learn about our region's native flowers in school and can identify all of the major wildflowers we see each winter (much better than their mother can, that's for sure!).
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Just 45 or so minutes from home, it really was like stepping into paradise for an afternoon. (Well, except for the little boy who decided that standing directly in front of us was the appropriate place to pee. My husband suggested he find a tree off to the side (yes, little Israeli boys pee on trees all the time, it's considered socially acceptable, but they are supposed to be at least a little bit discrete, and certainly not to pee right on the sidewalk in front of a family on a picnic bench) but the little boy insisted that his father said it was alright. We tried to ignore the fact that he was peeing just a few feet from where we were sitting having an ice cream. A few minutes later he suddenly came back and dropped his pants again, only this time his father saw him and from his reaction he most certainly had not said it was alright and proceeded to yell at him for his "disgusting behavior" (without ever bothering to explain where the child was going wrong or to suggest a better alternative). Sigh...
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25 comments:

anymommy said...

We used to visit Lurray (sp?) Caverns in Virginia every year and it was magic. Glad you all had a great outing, minus the rebel pee-er.

Dina said...

Gorgeous cave photos! I haven't been there for decades.

The song says the rakefet blooms UNDER the rock, mitachat lasela ... But yours is sitting right on top of the rock. Maybe the flower lost its sense of shyness, like that little pisher.

P.S. See the Supreme Court website for guided tour times and days: www.court.gov.il
It was my first time inside too.

Mimi said...

Sounds like a wonderful tour, Robin.
You took some amazing photos, and the "no-flash" only makes them more impressive, gives a lovely, natural light.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

So funny - I saw Anymommy's comment and I was JUST thinking about Luray Caverns. It's the closest thing we have to this in the DC area. Very cool.

maryt/theteach said...

Those photos are magnificent, Robin! Well done! I find when they tell you no flash they sometimes jump on you for taking any pix! They are back in the 20th century, right? The little boy peeing - what can I say, Robin? Oh dear!

www.nelliebugs.com said...

I LOVE THOSE PICTURES! WOW! I used to work in an old lead mine -- lots of those beautiful "no touch" sculptures. The cool part about me being a tour guide, though, was that I got to let everyone touch just ONE part ... basically to show what the oils on our hands do to them. There was a big hand imprint. Everyone loved it. And you're right, the flash photos don't do anything but make a big glare.

I just wanted to stop by and say THANK YOU for for entering my OWOH giveaway! Sorry it took me so long to get back with you -- it's been a crazy few weeks. I'm following your blog now, and if you'd like to stop by mine and see if you like it, I'd love for you to follow me as well! :) Thanks,

Sadie@
http://nelliebugs-swaps.blogspot.com

Mommy, I'm Home said...

Beautiful! Reminds me of Carlsbad Cavern in New Mexico...

RivkA with a capital A said...

This is also one of my favorite places in Israel!

I also haven't been there in ages. I keep waiting to go when my parents are here, so I can take them as well!

Pat said...

They have similar rules in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico about not touching anything.

LOL about nature boy! We live out in the country, in the mountains in a forested area so our 3 sons grew up peeing outside when they were little, but no one could see them. Teacher friends of mine have the occasional story about little boys (1st graders) who would run out the door and pee right outside the door, so they were set straight quickly...that it's not OK at school.

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happily retired gal said...

Beautiful photos of these caverns and lovely pink cyclamen.
Hugs and blessings,

quilly said...

The stalactites are beautiful and awe inspiring -- and that Cyclamen growing out of the rock is nothing short of marveling.

kaye said...

unbelievably beautiful.

Yaelian said...

Too long time has passed from my visit to the cave as well.Nice pictures, in spite of the problems. And those cyklamen are so pretty!
Poor little boy!

bermudabluez said...

Your pics are fabulous as always! I love exploring caves...as Karen mentioned...Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is magnificent!! The flowers are beautiful. I cannot wait for spring...had enough of this snow!

Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

There would be nothing like that here in Dubai, I doubt it! What an experience for you and your kids.

Maribeth said...

Those are lovely, Robin. You know me, I especially love the flowers!

Hasya Ya'ara said...

My dream is to see Israel someday. It appears that Israel has lots of beautiful treasures to behold.

Baila said...

I was there in August. Hot. Very, very hot. LOTS of steps. But it was fun.

(I was also there on year-long trip in Israel. We had a REALLY good fun back then. ;-)

RivkA with a capital A said...

Baila -- I also think I was there when I was here for the year!

Fiona said...

What fabulous rock formations. I'm glad to read that little boys are the same the world over!

shiborigirl said...

What a wonderful family day you had! So nice for your children to see this natural wonder, now that they are old enough to enjoy it.

You have such a good eye for picture subjects - that shot of the cyclamen is a stunner. :)

Kate

Lynn said...

I love caves! It must have been so hard not to touch the formations. They are amazing and look so smooth.

I have never seen cyclamen growing in the wild. Here in New York we only have it as an indoor houseplant. It's a beautiful photo (as all your are). And our boys do not pee in public, thankfully!

Thanks for sharing your day with us!

Daryl said...

Cyclamen is an amazingly resilient plant .. I am not surprised it grows out from between rocks, I can actually get it grow out of a pot on my window sill!

And the cave is awesome ...

Wafa' said...

woow, very beautiful. Thanx for sharing :)