Zedekiah’s Cave, also known as Solomon’s Quarry, is a five-acre underground limestone cave under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was carved over a period of several thousand years and is a remnant of the largest quarry in Jerusalem, stretching from Jeremiah’s Grotto and the Garden Tomb to the walls of the Old City. The cave has great historical importance in Freemasonry.
This quarry under the northern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City lay buried for more than 300 years until, in 1854, an American missionary’s dog dug through dirt near the wall and disappeared through an opening.
The entrance to Zedekiah’s Cave is just beneath the Old City wall, between the Damascus and Herod Gates, about 500 feet (150 m) east of the former. Beyond the narrow entrance, the cave slopes down into a vast 300-foot-long auditorium-like chamber. Drops of water, known as “Zedekiah’s tears”, trickle through the ceiling.
Beyond the “auditorium” are a series of artificial galleries hewn by ancient stonecutters into chaotic, sometimes bizarre, patterns and formations. Paths give access to every corner of the quarry system, which takes at least 30 minutes to explore thoroughly. Chisel marks are visible in many sections and in some galleries huge, nearly finished building blocks destined for some long-ago structure are locked into the rock where the stonecutters left them centuries ago. In a few places the stones are marked by Arabic, Greek, Armenian and English charcoal and engraved graffiti (e.g., “W. E. Blackstone Jan. 1889”). Several plaques explaining some of the myriad legends associated with the site have been mounted on the cave walls.
From the entrance to the farthest point, the cave extends about 650 feet (200 m). Its maximum width is about 330 feet (100 m) and its depth is generally about 30 feet (9.1 m) below the street level of the Muslim Quarter, although there are several lower levels and blocked tunnels too.
Only the mouth of Zedekiah’s Cave is a natural phenomenon. The interior of the cavern was carved over a period of several thousand years.
Legend has it that this was the cave through which biblical King Zedekiah unsuccessfully attempted to flee Jerusalem when the Babylonians conquered the city in 586 BCE.
The cave’s other nickname is Solomon’s Quarry. The Freemasons of Israel hold an annual secretive ceremony here as they consider King Solomon the original freemason. But it’s more probable that stones cut here were used for the fourth-century BCE Second Temple of Herod rather than Solomon’s ninth-century First Temple.
Adding to the cave’s allure, in 1968 a Jerusalem resident claimed his grandfather had buried three cases of gold in Zedekiah’s Cave. He offered a quarter of the loot to the government if it would finance a dig. Nothing was found.
Zedekiah found like Sol Epstein that You Can’t Take It with You
Sol Epstein made millions in the garment business. And when he died he wanted to take some of his money to heaven with him. So just before his 120 years were up Sol talked to God about it. Sol told God that he had lived a good life and all he wanted was to bring a little of his fortune with him. God finally relented, but told the millionaire he must limit the amount to whatever he could fit into one suitcase.
Sol wondered if he should take American Dollars, British Pounds. or Euros but because of inflation, he thought his best bet would be to fill his suitcase with gold.
When Sol finally died and arrived at the gates of Heaven, the administering angel asked Sol what was in the suitcase. Sol explained that down on earth he had been a millionaire and that God had given him permission to bring some of his fortunes with him, as long as he could fit it into one suitcase.
The angel told Sol this was most unusual and he would have to take a look inside the suitcase. Sol unzipped his suitcase, revealing the gold and smiled broadly.
“What’s that?” the angel asked.
“What do you mean?” Sol responded. “It’s gold!”
The angel looked a little closer and then revealing the gold-lined streets in Heaven he said, “Oh, you mean pavement!”