The karstic cavern contains hundreds of limestone stalagmites and stalagmites in all sorts of forms. Based on the humidity and amount of water inside, the cave is apparently still active: The stalactites are continuing to grow, one drop at a time.
The complex of stalactite caves serendipitously found during this tunnel project has gummed up the works before.
The pipeline project, the largest water project underway in Israel at this time, includes excavating a 13-kilometer tunnel below the Jerusalem Hills, between Moshav Kisalon and the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. The first cave was discovered after as the tunnel work began, about a year ago.
The work on the pipeline had to be held up until the cave could be sealed with concrete. They then continued, but on Sunday the tunnel-boring machine broke into an open space, partly filled with water, and had to be shut down as water poured into the drill-head.
The newly discovered cave is 3.5 kilometers from the start of the tunnel, and about 280 meters below the surface. It is not small, about 14 meters long and some 2,000 square meters in size, and is likely to hold up further boring into the rock by at least a month and a half. The original schedule had the tunneling machine reaching Ein Karem next year.
The project is being carried out by the Mekorot national water company, which called in experts from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Cave Research Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
However evocative and beautiful some of the formations in this cave may be, given the circumstances it will not be made accessible to the public. Most of the cavern will be filled with concrete so the tunneling can continue.
The public can take comfort in the many other stalactite caves found in the chalky Jerusalem Hills, including the vast and multiply-named Avshalom Cave/ Soreq Cave/Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Beit Shemesh, which were also found by chance during development work in 1968.