As the First Jewish War raged, villagers would hide in impressively inaccessible cliffside caves as the Roman armies marched through.
While surveying natural limestone caves in the Galilee, scientists have discovered hundreds of limestone caves in which Jews hid when Roman troops came marching through 2,000 years ago, during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE).
Extensive embellishment such as baths and candle niches carved into the rock show that the caves had been prepared for extensive habitation.
Water cisterns carved into the rock, as well as pitchers, pottery shards, coins, and other artifacts dating to the 1st century C.E. were found in many of the cliff shelters, say Dr. Yinon Shivtiel from the Safed Academic College and Vladimir Boslove of the Israeli Cave Research Center. The work was funded by the Safed Academic College Research Foundation.
The Jewish historian Josephus wrote extensively about the Roman-Jewish wars. Some historians have wondered whether he didn’t embellish his role in the Jewish uprising, glorifying his own actions. But the discoveries of the caves in the Galilee, which were made over a period of years, lend credence to his accounts.
When the Great Jewish Revolt, a.k.a. the First Jewish War, began, the man born as Yoseph ben Matityahu was fighting on the side of the Jews, commanding the Jewish rebel forces in the Galilee.
The outmanned, “outgunned” rebels were facing the full might of the Roman army, under Vespasian and his son Titus.
Protecting the people of Galilee was an almost impossible task, since the Jewish soldiers he commanded were poorly equipped and lacked combat experience. Josephus’ defensive strategy involved adding walls and otherwise fortifying towns and caves in the vicinity: “Moreover, he built walls about the caves near the lake of Gennesar, which places lay in the Lower Galilee.” (The War of the Jews, (II, 572 – 576).
Five of six settlements that the Jewish general apparently fortified have been identified: Tiberias, Arbel, Akhbara, Meron and Caphareccho, which remains unidentified.