Holy Land caves named World Heritage site

The United Nations cultural agency designated a network of 2,000-year-old, man-made caves outside of Jerusalem a World Heritage site, the eighth such site in Israel.

UNESCO added the caves of Beit Guvrin-Maresha — known as a “city under a city” — to the prestigious list of World Heritage sites during its annual meeting in Qatar on June 22.

The intricate Beit Guvrin–Maresha caves have been used for thousands of years as limestone quarries, burial sites, storerooms, cisterns, olive presses, stables and dovecotes, among other things. They are composed of chambers and networks with various functions, and are situated below the ancient twin towns of Maresha and Beit Guvrin.

The Beit Guvrin caves are part of the Judean foothills’ “land of a thousand caves,” all of them man-made.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority submitted the nomination.

Beit Guvrin–Maresha joins seven other Israeli world heritage sites: Masada, the Old City of Acre, the White City of Tel Aviv, the Negev incense route, the biblical tels of Megiddo, Hazor and Beersheba, the Bahai holy places in Haifa and the Western Galilee, and the Nahal Me’arot caves on Mount Carmel.

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage convention, pledging to protect their natural and cultural heritage, can nominate a site, which must have an “outstanding universal value” to qualify.  — jns.org & ap