The white chalk cliffs of Rosh HaNikra on the Mediterranean coast which separate Israel from Lebanon to the north, can be clearly seen from Acco and Haifa. The grottos, once only accessible from the sea, can now be reached by descending seventy meters in the cable car. The angle of descent, 60 degrees, is said to be the steepest in the world.
The grottos, a work of art created by nature, probably began with an earthquake which caused fissures in the hard limestone bedrock and also crevices through which the rain could penetrate. Over millennia the rain and the waves have eroded both the limestone and the soft chalk layer above it. There are two hundred meters of channels and cavities. The caverns, carved out by the waves which still pound on the rocks, are every bit as beautiful and colorful as the more famous Blue Grotto of Capri.
While a visit to the grottos is possible in all seasons it is particularly memorable in the winter months when the stormy sea blasts into the caves and tunnels spraying water and often flooding┬á the specially hewn passageways making them impassable. Special lighting has been installed to facilitate night visits.
As one exits the tunnels, walking along the sixty meter high white cliff to the cable car, the black flintstone fossils in the chalky cliff offer a stark and interesting contrast.
During World War II, British army engineers planned a railway line to facilitate troop movement between Turkey and Egypt. In order to connect Beirut, to the north, to Haifa, to the south, they tunneled through the cliff and built a number of suspended bridges.
The train bringing Jewish refugees from concentration camps in Germany, to be exchanged for the descendants of the German Templers, who had settled in Palestine at the end of the 19th century, came through this tunnel.
One of the bridges was destroyed by Jewish underground fighters in the last years of the British Mandate in Palestine, prior to the establishment of the State on Israel in 1948 and the rail link between Israel and Lebanon has been closed since then.
Rosh HaNikra still serves as a crossing point between Lebanon and Israel but is used mainly by UNIFIL personnel. It was here that the armistice agreement between the two countries was negotiated and finalised in 1949.
The site is managed by the nearby Kibbutz Rosh HaNikra and includes a snack bar, a restaurant with a breathtaking view over the Mediterranean and a souvenir shop.
Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)
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