We are at the ancient city of Maresha, where one characteristics of this region is the chalk rock below us. The chalk rock is brittle compared to the limestone, yet remains soft so that cisterns can be dug relatively easily. Although the chalk is porous it does not transmit water well, as its pores are very small and therefore it is a sealed rock. In a minute we will understand how it relates to the site we are about to visit.
The caves in Maresha can be divided into five groups according to their shapes and functions:
Let’s start with bell shape caves, they are so called because of their shape. Their diameter is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The depth of some such caves reaches up to 25 meters. The caves contained quarries of soft chalk rock that was used for the cement industry or for the production of bricks.
The second type – cisterns, they are very similar to the bell caves, and what is characterizing them is the staircase that the carvers left along the sides of the cave, and in addition they have stone railings.
The third type are caves of various shapes that were used as craft and agricultural facilities such as winepress facilities, textile houses, wineries, and stables.
The fourth type are burial caves. The most-known one in Maresha are the Sidonian burial caves. The burial caves were used from the third century BC to the sixth century.
And now for the reason we are here today, the fifth type are columbarium caves – the meaning of the word is the pigeon house. Let’s go down to the cave and explain among other things, the origin of its name.
Two minutes on a topic related to the name of the cave, which is the Anders army, named after its Polish commander, General Władysław Anders.
In September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Anders served as the commander of a cavalry division in the Polish army, he was captured by the Soviets when they invaded Poland. After the German invasion to the Soviet Union, in June 1941, the Polish government in exile agreed to cooperate with the Soviet Union against Germany. The agreement signed between them, stipulated among other things, that a Polish army would be established on Russian soil that would be subordinate to the Soviet High Command. Anders was chosen to command the Polish force. He was released from Russian captivity and began to organize the Polish force that was nicknamed “Anders’ Army”.
Although Anders hoped that he would have the opportunity to lead the Polish forces that would liberate Poland, in practice, Anders’ army who numbered tens of thousands of soldiers and by 1942 reported to the Allies, was stationed first in the Middle East and then sent to the front in Italy. On his way to Italy, and due to reasons I will not elaborate on, the journey to Italy went through Port Said in Egypt and from there by train to Israel, where they arrived at the beginning of 1943.
While they were in the Land of Israel, they visited Maresha and entered this cave and engraved the inscription “Warsaw Poland” as well as the eagle image – which is the symbol of the Polish army,
Therefore, it was decided to name the place, “The Polish Cave”.
A final note regarding Anders’ army – 4,000 Jews served there, which constituted about 5 percent of its soldiers.
Regarding the Polish cave – this cave was initially used as a cistern. I started the video by describing the features of the chalk rock – on the one hand it is easy to dig and on the other hand it is a sealed rock so there was no need to coat the cistern with plaster. Yet it is important to understand that since the chalk rock is impermeable to seepage, there are no springs in the Judean Lowlands due to the inability of water to percolate, therefore, these cisterns served as the only source of water for the residents of the area. The cisterns received their water from the rain that fell on the hills surrounding the city and from drainage systems that carried every drop of rain from the roofs.
As mentioned at the beginning of the video, what makes the cisterns unique is the staircase that the carvers left along the sides of the cave and stone railings as you can see here. So, it can be concluded that this cave began as a cistern and later the columbarium was added. What was the columbarium used for? I invite you to watch the video “Columbarium cave from ancient times” which provides detailed explanation.
And to conclude, as usual I have a question for you – one of Israel’s most known prime ministers served in the Anders army, what was his name. the answer will at the end of the video.