Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 CE, and a columbarium cut in the rock for the housing of pigeons, have all been discovered at the site. We had visited Hirbet Midras previously in search of Kalaniyot (anemones) and Rakefot (Persian Cyclamen), but this time I was looking for the Pyramid, a large pyramid-shaped monument with several stairs, which was probably used as an impressive tombstone for a burial system located next to the pyramid. 10 metres long at its base, and reaching a height of 3.5 metres (the top layers of the pyramid are missing, and the original height of the pyramid is estimated at 5 metres), it is thought that there is no other monument like this in the whole of Israel. This type of monument is known in Hebrew as a nefesh (soul). In Arabic its name is al-mantar, the scout.
Second Temple, burial customs were such that when somebody died their body would be laid out on a shelf in a cave which would be sealed with a heavy stone. A few months later, after the flesh had decayed, the bones would be transferred to a special bone box, whose size was determined by the femur, the longest bone in the human body. The cave once contained small ossuaries for collecting the bones of the decomposed bodies. Pottery found in the burial cave was used from the 1st century BCE until the Bar Kochba revolt in 132-135 CE.
We walked on until we reached the Columbarian Cave. The shape of the many concaved holes carved into the cave walls explains the name: columba in Greek is pigeon, and columbarium is dovecote. Researchers are unsure about the genuine use of the holes but it seems that one of the uses was for collecting dove-dung for organic fertiliser. The pigeons were kept as a source of food, were used for sacrifices, and also to deliver messages.Byzantine Period.
The tunnel system can be entered and navigated by crawling; arrows mark the direction to be followed. The trail between the tunnels and the caves is fascinating, and was especially loved by my youngest son who found them a great thrill to crawl through. There is a lot of turning and crawling, so you need a torch, a tight waistline and no fear of the dark in order to enjoy the experience! (Okay, I admit at his point that neither Mister Handmade in Israel nor I had the slightest inclination to crawl through the tunnels ourselves.) Your torch will illuminate niches where oil lamps once lay and other carvings in the rock.
The Pyramid, the burial rooms and the beautiful seasonal wild flowers spotted during our visit to Adulam Park were interesting enough, but it was the "Crawling Cave" which proved to be the most fun for my son. He tried the tunnels out when we first arrived at the park, and we finished off our tour with yet another visit.