Amirim
Rosh Hanikra

Rosh Hanikra

Rosh Hanikra, the Cable Car and Grottoes

An ancient legend tells of a young girl from near Acre, whose father decided to wed her to a very old, rich man from Lebanon. Against her wishes, the girl set off with her father and entire family from Acre to the city of Tzur in Lebanon, in order to marry the rich old man. On the way, as they passed Rosh Hanikra, the girl sprang off her horse, flung herself into the stormy sea and was never seen again. However, it is said that to this day, if you listen closely, you can hear her singing a melancholy song inside the dark, mysterious grottoes of Rosh Hanikra.

 

Whether this tale is truth or fiction – there’s no doubt that Rosh Hanikra is especially romantic on a stormy winter day. That’s the time to travel up north to the western corner of Israel’s border with Lebanon and watch the wondrous interplay of sea and rocks that has been taking place here for hundreds of thousands of years.

 

The cliffs at Rosh Hanikra are situated at the northernmost point of Israel’s coastline and provide the location for a tourist site offering a wide variety of attractions. A chain of subterranean shocks caused cracks in the rock, through which, over time, rainwater penetrated deeply, dissolving and enlarging them, until they formed tunnels and small caves. Waves crashing against the rock enlarged them even further, carving shapes into the rock. In the past, the only way to access the grottoes was to swim, but nowadays, they can be reached by cable car (the steepest and shortest cable car in the world) and through an excavated tunnel that runs along the length of the grottoes. Naturally, the changing seasons, the wind, the soaring waves, sunrise and sunset, and moonlight all enhance the beauty of the grottoes.

From the observation point at Rosh Hanikra, the view is spectacular. Directly below is the Betzet Beach, where you can barely find a small patch of sand to sit on during the summer. Close by is the Rosh Hanikra Holiday Village. On a clear day, Acre is also visible from here. At the Rosh Hanikra grottoes you really feel the smallness of man compared to the forces of nature. The water crashes with tremendous force against the rock, especially during a storm, and the spray splashes skyward. Cries of excitement can be heard everywhere as the water soars into the sky and crashes down on to the promenade. Certainly not an everyday experience!

How were these grottoes formed? A chain of subterranean shocks caused cracks in the local limestone, and rainwater penetrated these cracks, dissolving and enlarging them, until tunnels and small grottoes were formed – what is known as a karstic phenomenon. Waves crashing into the cracks further enlarged them, eroding the rock and carving shapes into it.

 

Access to the grottoes is by a cable car, which consists of two cars, one descending and the other ascending, affording a view that is both spectacular and daunting.  Many birds build their nests in the rocks – pigeons, large white seagulls and others. You too feel like a bird as you float down to the grottoes, suspended between heaven and earth, with the land and seascape spread out before you in all their glory. The cable car operates daily all year round, apart from the occasional day when exceptionally strong storms and winds prevent use.

You then enter into the railway tunnels. The British, who controlled Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, decided to pass through the cliff rather than over it. They needed a cheap, convenient and efficient transportation line between Egypt and Europe, passing through Palestine, so they constructed this long railway line, the remains of which can still be seen, for example, here and in the area of the Betzet Beach. For the purpose of constructing a railway line running from Egypt, through Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey and then on to Europe, tremendous effort was invested in digging two 190-meter-long tunnels, with a bridge stretching over the largest grotto. In this way, the British army could easily transport troops and weapons for the war against the Nazis.

 

The northern tunnel is practically unchanged, apart from rows of seats placed there so that it can be used as a mini-cinema for the screening of the sound and light show “Sea and Rock”. This short but comprehensive presentation tells the story of the site, demonstrating visually how the grottoes were formed. The camera captures some very special angles. On the original photographs, you can see how the railway tunnels were excavated and how the bridge was blown up by a company from the 21st Battalion of the Carmeli Brigade on the night of 27/3/48. 

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