Cave of John the Baptist
The Cave of John the Baptist is one of the newest destinations for Christian Holy Land tours. It is believed that this is where John the Baptist performed baptismal rites for Jesus and many of his early disciples.
In the late 1990s, archaeologists unearthed a cave that leads to one of the oldest baptismal sites in Israel. The cave was discovered in the Judean Hills, near the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem, just a few miles from the place where, according to the Book of Luke, John the Baptist was born. The cave itself was found among the orchards of Kibbutz Tzuba.
Pilgrims can enter the cave through a metal gate and walk down a series of low stone steps. The cave's ceiling averages 16 feet in height, so there is no problem walking comfortably in here. Look for the carved images on the walls of the cave, especially for the image of a man standing, with one arm raised, holding a staff and wearing a type of animal skin clothing. This is believed to be an image of John the Baptist himself. Other carvings, all dating from the 4th or 5th centuries, include crosses and other Christian symbols, as well as a decapitated head and body which illustrate the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod, as described in the Book of Matthew.
Archaeologists reported that they found 250,000 shards of pottery when excavating the cave. The oldest of these has been dated from the mid-2nd century BC. Interestingly, the scientists believe the cave was used as Jewish mikveh (ritual immersion pool) long before it was used by John the Baptist.