These caves are attributed to the Bar Kochba rebellion. It helps to have some history crash course to know the significance of these caves to modern-day Israelis, especially the Jewish people.
Several various underground tactical caves dug and carved in the Shefelah region were made as the Jews’ hideouts in the preparation of their second attempt to rebel against the Roman Empire (131-135 AD). This revolt is also known as the “Bar Kochba” revolt, named after Simon bar Kochba, a Jewish military leader whose birth name was Simon ben Kosevah.
During the revolt, he was hailed as the “Jewish messiah,” and he was given the name “Bar Kochba,” which means “Son of the Star” in Armaic (which was taken from the Star Prophecy verse from Numbers 24:17).
The revolt erupted as a result of mounting political and religious tensions that followed after their first revolt against the Romans — the Jewish-Roman War in 66-73 AD. These tensions were related to the growing Roman military establishment in Judea, changes in administrative life and economy, together with the other Jewish revolts in several regions (including Libya and Mesopotamia), which also failed.
With the Bar Kochba revolt, it resulted in an independent Jewish state for three years, in which Bar Kochba ruled as prince, or “Nasi” in Hebrew. However, the revolt was eventually suppressed by the obviously stronger Roman military. As you might have guessed, the war ended up with great brutality and large-scale destruction — 580,000 Jews killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages wiped out, and a lot more numbers of Jews who died from famine and disease. Although the Romans came out victorious, they suffered massive casualties, too.
Apart from these consequences, this failed revolt also resulted in suppression and persecution of the Jewish religious under Emperor Hadrian and the banning of Jews from Jerusalem.
Crawling under the Bar Kochba caves
As you have crawled through the history of the Bar Kochba rebellion, now you’re going to relive it by literally crawling under these caves like the ancient Jewish rebels did. During the Bar Kochba revolt, the Jews also used these caves, connected by tunnels, as their storage for food and weapons.
You have to bring:
- A flashlight
- A hat
- Packed lunch
- Plenty of water
Explore the hideouts. Children and smaller, more adventurous adults will have an easier time navigating and squeezing through these underground caves! There are larger caves, though, where it is possible to stand.
They are great fun although a certain amount of agility is required. It can be exciting for many, but claustrophobic for some. So obviously, this is not advised for those who suffer from claustrophobia, and also for people who have mobility issues.
For more details see Bar Kochba Caves.
Here is a couple of more photos of the caves that are witnesses to the story of Bar Kochba and the rebellion he led.