Joseph Patrich

Caves of the Judean wilderness. Entrances—some gaping holes, some carved into architectural facades and some hidden even to the keenest of eyes—pierce the sheer cliffs of Wadi Fara, about five miles northeast of Jerusalem. In antiquity, from the time of the Bible onward, these caves were used as places of refuge. During the first century C.E., many were carved out with great skill into abodes with 7-foot ceilings, stone doors and water cisterns. To these carefully prepared retreats, families of Jewish rebels fighting the Romans fled from Jerusalem.

Near the center of the photo, five “windows” recessed into the cliff face mark the site of the largest cave in Wadi Fara. A long flight of steps below the “windows” leads to this cave. According to author Patrich, this cave may have served as military headquarters for one of the most famous of the Jewish rebels, Simon bar [son of] Giora.

Simon conquered Idumea and Hebron, and even set his sights on Jerusalem. To further his plans, Simon took over the caves of Wadi Fara—to store food and booty and to garrison and train some of his troops, numbering about 15,000. Perhaps the officers of Simon’s army and their families were allotted the “luxury” accommodations of the many caves in the Wadi Fara cliffs. In the third year of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (69 C.E.), Simon gained control of Jerusalem and was proclaimed its governor.