You might be wondering about the cave that the Nassar family once made home. Let me explain. The underground dwelling is warm and dry in the rainy winter, and cool in the scorching summer. Caves are not unusual in this land of hills carved by dry winds. Unlike European caves, these caves don’t drip moisture nor grow stalagmites and stalactites. The photo above shows caves above the Kidron valley, facing the monastery commonly called Mar Saba. It was founded by Saint Sabbas, who lived many years alone in a cave before attracting followers. In effect, the monastery grew up around his hermit cave. Here it is today:

Photo: D. Martens
Mar Saba

More famous than hermit monks, at least here in Jerusalem, are the caves of Jesus. We consumers of Western art think of the Christmas Eve stable as a wooden structure, when in this part of the world, a stable is often a cave. So were tombs — with a stone rolled over the entrance. Back in the time of Emperor Constantine, a church was built on the cave tomb in which the body of Jesus was placed — now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Yes, that’s right, the church stands on a burial ground of cave tombs. And in Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity stands on the cave where Jesus was born. If you wait in line and go downstairs, you can peek through a hole to see stone.

And then there are the fancy caves, dwellings that have been carved into rock, such as those at Petra in Jordan.

Jordan rock dwellings DSC_1293
Petra, Jordan
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Petra, Jordan

Then there are the built caves, stone dwellings that seem to be built around a cave or imitate a cave. The hut on the right is basically a summer shack, a shelter for farmers during the olive harvest, which inside is cool and dry in the summer.

Finally, a modern application of a cave: every dog loves a cave.

dogs covet caves

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