The Knesset is expected to look into the possibility that Israel Nature and Parks Authority guides at the Soreq Cave Nature Reserve are concealing the true age of the cavern's stalactites and the stalagmites so as not to offend the beliefs of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox visitors.
A teacher who toured the Jerusalem-area cave on Sunday with first and second graders from a science-oriented school in the south said the guide told her students the formations were very old, but refused to say how old.
The stalactites and stalagmites are estimated by scientists to be around 300,000 years old. The guide said she was not allowed to give that figure so as not to conflict with the faith of those who believe the world is around 5,000 years old.
"I was shocked," the teacher said Monday. "We are a science school, not an ultra-Orthodox school. How can such information be concealed from pupils?"
After being informed of the issue, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ) submitted a question from the floor to Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.
"Ignorant concepts taking over our lives have reached bizarre proportions," Horowitz said. "An official body like the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, comprised of ecologists and experts from various fields, humiliates itself just to satisfy the ultra-Orthodox fantasies that surround us. The fact that such instruction is given to schoolchildren is particularly shameful."
Horowitz is now seeking to determine whether guides provide visitors with similar information at other Nature and Parks Authority sites.
The authority said no directive on the matter is given to site guides and that the site pamphlet specifically states that the formations are hundreds of thousands of years old. The Soreq guide's recent remark to the schoolchildren "may have been an isolated incident," the authority said.
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