This cave was first known as the Soldier’s Cave, however in 1999 Spanish priest identified this as the cave mentioned in the extra-biblical Gospel of Barnabas that Jesus rested in with 72 followers and 12 disciples when fleeing from the soldiers of Herod. Of course, no physical evidence exists that can link Jesus to this particular cave, but references in the Bible do indicate that Jesus traveled this area.
Jesus had left Nazareth to the shores of the Sea of Galilee (modern Lake Tiberias) and when he learned that Herod’s men were chasing him, he fled to Gadara (modern Um Qais and where he performed the miracle of casting demons into a herd of swine). Jesus made his return journey to Jerusalem and on that trip he supposedly stopped in this cave to rest.
Other than being a possible place where Jesus took shelter, the cave was also much used in the Roman/Byzantime period as an olive and wine press. The olive press inside the cave itself has been restored. Adnan Megdadi, one of the guards at the site, is always happy to open the gate and let visitors explore inside.
The network of basins and channels above the cave are thought to be a wine press and the story goes that the people who worked at the press held a competition every year to elect the girls with the best legs who would be allowed to tread the grapes, because of course treading grapes requires bare feet and hitched up skirts. The roots of the ancient oak tree trail mischievously into a rock cut storage basin that may have held wine in its time, giving rise to the tale of the drunken tree, although nobody will admit to having tried to drink its sap.
Sites in the Ajloun Region:
From the few columns, stretches of stone pavement, and other remains which are visible in Pella today, it is hard to imagine the historical importance of this site or its once immense size. Pella has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, though, consistently from the Neolithic Period to the Ottoman rule of the area in the late 1800s.