Israel’s Beit Guvrin-Maresha caves named World Heritage site

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The caves of Beit Guvrin-Maresha, located southwest of Jerusalem, were named a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee on Sunday approved the Beit Guvrin-Maresha Caves National Park for inclusion on the list.

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In making its announcement, the committee called the caves a “city under a city.”

The network of caves “is characterized by a selection of man-made caves, excavated from the thick and homogenous layer of soft chalk in Lower Judea. It includes chambers and networks with varied forms and functions, situated below the ancient twin towns of Maresha and Bet Guvrin, that bear witness to a succession of historical periods of excavation and usage stretching over 2,000 years, from the Iron Age to the Crusades, as well as a great variety of subterranean construction methods,” according to the committee.

Other Israeli sites already listed as part of World Heritage are: Tel Aviv White City, Masada, the Biblical Tels, the Incense Route, the Baha’i Holy Shrines in Haifa, the Old City of Acre, and the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve, listed in 2012.

The candidacy of Beit Guvrin-Maresha was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and several institutions in Israel.

The decision to add Beit Guvrin-Maresha to the World Heritage List comes two days after the World Heritage Committee added the Palestinian village of Battir’s ancient stone farming terraces and an irrigation system established in Roman times to the list and put it on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The village is listed as being located in Palestine.