Visiting Jaffa, Caesarea & Beit She’arim National Park in Israel

Greetings,

What a wonderful day, one of the most interesting I’ve had in quite some time and I say that in earnest. We visited Jaffa, Caesarea & Beit Shearim National Park. Straight up, I’m ready to fall face first, flat on the floor while my head is used as a stop for the door as I lay there drooling with during a long deep snore. Partial jokes aside, everything we did today got me excited but Caesarea seriously blew my already open and expanded mind to new levels. I felt like a kid totally stoked to be on a field trip where my mind was this massive sponge that just wanted to absorb more and more and more…


Let’s begin with Jaffa which is a very old port town which has always been the “gateway to Jerusalem” and has over 5000 years of history, yes you read that right, 5000 years!? It’s got quite a bit of history and is a site of significance to the Christian faith as the city where Peter baptized Cornelius the Roman aka the beginning of spreading the gospel to non-Jewish people as he was a pagan. The streets are best described as alleys and just scream of character. It’s an interesting place and has a serious Turkish inspiration due to the long Ottoman reign in the region. In 1950 it joined the municipality of Tel Aviv and the port closed in 1965.


From the top of the hill in Jaffa, you have an absolutely extraordinary view of Tel Aviv aka the city that never sleeps aka the white city. There are so many cranes in Tel Aviv that if I came back in a few years, I bet I wouldn’t even recognize the skyline. If you’re there, I suggest you get some street orange juice or the like, the place reminded me of Istanbul and that’s a great thing. Also saw some gents fishing from the seawall and they have this cool market which was just opening as we arrived. I really liked Jaffa and wish I had more time there.


Next we went to Caesarea which had the power to turn me back into that ADHD 9 year old who couldn’t get enough. I strolled and skipped around the ruins taking shots of everything with a big face filling smile that didn’t stop asking questions. King Herod aka “Herod the Great”who was the visionary behind the magnificent port city was a true boss and it was his determination and heavy hand that made it all happen. The place is magnificently massive and currently just a  broken shell of what it once was.  I’m very interested in this topic and don’t be surprised if you see a longer piece on it written at some point in the future by yours truly.


Suffice to say the city has had many rulers since King Herod built this beast up between 25-13 BCE.  Today it’s been restored as a stellar archeological gem that was completely buried under sand dunes as recently as the 1990’s. Surrounding the ruins is now the wealthiest neighborhood in Israel which makes sense when you find out The Rothschild Dynasty is behind the project. The site where the port once stood now houses great restaurants, cafe’s and some of the best beaches in Israel along the Mediterranean Sea.


This was basically the first massive man made port and how they did it with the technology of the day is testament to determination. What still remains from the original city includes a large theater, hipprodome and the remnants of King Herod’s most egregious(archaic usage) palace that had a fresh water swimming pool on the ocean that was fed from custom built aqueducts. I can’t stress enough how extravagant and epic King Herod was, the title Herod the Great is no exaggeration. He didn’t just build a port city but a masterpiece that’s being enjoyed to this day, roughly 2000 years later.


From there we made our way to Beit She’arim National Park which is a Jewish town and archeological site that houses these massive Jewish tombs cut from limestone along the side of a hill. There are numerous tombs but the one that really impressed me was the Cave of Coffins, it had something along the lines of 135 different tombs inside it and really gave us a glimpse into how the culture evolved in the means by which it sent the deceased into the afterlife.


The area rose in popularity as a favored Jewish burial site when in 135CE Jews became barred from the ideal spot which was the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. This is also the burial site of a very well respected individual named Rabbi Judah HaNasi. Over time it became the spot where people of influence and wealth chose to be buried. The whole area is quite serene with theater seating built on top of some of the tomb entrances as a place of study, one of Rabbi Judah HaNasi’s wishes. There is a tomb of this lady named “Sarah” who came as far as Lebanon to be buried in such a prestigious spot.


Today was an incredibly exciting and educational day which is always an award winning combo. This is my second time in the Middle East and it has to be one of the most culturally rich and straight up fascinating areas I’ve ever visited. I can’t explain to you enough how much I thoroughly enjoyed Caesarea, we were there for maybe 4-5 hours and it felt like 4-5 minutes. We also had the distinct pleasure of speaking with the legendary Koby Shavit who is the the director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority. He said next time, come ready to go diving as out in the sea is where all the new surprises await…

I’m typing this from Kibbutz Ein Zurim, I’ve never visited a Kibbutz before and about to go see what’s happening.

In closing, my body battles feelings of exhaustion and exhilaration which in my mind is the essence of travel and growth.

Tips hat,

P.S: Changed money today, check out the Israeli Shekel.

18 Comments

  1. Ava Apollo

    September 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I’ve heard such good things about Tel Aviv. It looks positively beautiful! Why is nobody at that beach?

    • Rob

      September 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      It was early morning and the other shots are from Caesarea and it is off limits there. Tel Aviv had an intriguing vibe.

  2. Julie

    September 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Your historical accounts of Israel are appreciated. So……….. much fascinating history and great scenery.

    • Rob

      September 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks, I’m having a wonderful time learning as much as I can and glad to share! :]

  3. Carrie

    September 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    To say that your photos are incredible would be an understatement… Seriously… want to be there. I am amazed… SOMEDAY!

    • Rob

      September 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      Thanks Carrie, was busy shooting all day until my battery finally died. Had an amazing day that kept me captivated from dawn until dusk!

      Make it happen!

  4. Wendy

    September 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I love Israel. I have not been there in many years. I can’t wait to go back and I’m so happy you love it.

    • Rob

      September 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks Wendy and it is stunning isn’t it?! I have a feeling I’ll be back at some point but who knows?!

      Great to hear from you again!!

  5. Boudewijn van Eersel

    September 11, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Hi Rob,

    It’s me again from the “bear whatchers” from Holland.
    Israël, one of my top travel spots. It’s just like you wrote earlier. Only negative things you hear or read, but such a beautifull country. Visited Israël 4 times and for the last time in 1997. Should go again!
    First my trip to the Kilimanjaro on the 20th of October. Hope to reach the top on the 29th.

    Enjoy your stay.

    Tip: climb mount Horeb (or Djebel Moesa) in the Sinaï dessert from St. Catherina monestry.

    • Rob

      September 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Hello!

      Of course I remember you as I had a great time and you’re the only Boudewijn I know! ;}

      I can see why, Israel is really impressing me so far. I’m not sure what I thought it would be like but it’s blowing my mind with it’s natural beauty, interesting cuisine and some of the most interesting history to be found on this planet.

      I don’t think this will be my last visit and thanks for the recommendation as I’ll definitely keep it in mind for my next trip I’m quasi planning now, seriously.

      You’re going to love Tanzania if you haven’t been there yet. Spent roughly 2 months hanging around Arusha at a friends house who is a bush pilot, enjoy and thanks for your input as always.

      Say hello to your family for me.

  6. Phil

    September 11, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Hey Rob,, great post ! Ever get that feeling that your standing in a spot that holds some kind incredible historical significance, you know that feeling that runs right through you!! That burial site I think would have that effect on me.. I love that sensation..I can only imagine that Israel could provide this rush over and over again.. Keep up the good work..
    p.s.. I am just curious to hear about what the local vibe is around the hole issue with Iran, and other friends around Israel..
    Bonne Journee mon Chum

    • Rob

      September 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      That type of stuff happens all the time my friend. I just stand there and sorta picture what it was like. I think on this exact spot and boom a flood of images come through my mind, all of which were totally possible.

      To be honest, I have no idea as I haven’t asked anyone and the mass media make mountains out of molehills when it comes to everything. All I have ever heard on the news about Israel is conflict almost as though they don’t want us to come here.

      What I’ve found is an incredibly cool spot on in this world I’m keen on further exploring.

  7. Ryan

    September 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Great update Rob! I would love to visit Israel sometime. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

    • Rob

      September 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      You should try and make it happen, this place is a seriously good time so far.

  8. OpenConcept

    September 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Yeeeeees good sir!! This was amazing to read and catch a glimpse of. So pumped your diving in as i can continue to live vicariously through you. By far this looks like one of the most mind blowing places to visit based on history alone. I agree with Phil in that you must have had some very surreal moments. So cool man. Loved this one!

    • Rob

      September 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      hahaha you can ALWAYS count on me to dive in a most egregious manner. I don’t think everything I’ve seen will really hit me until I’m on the plane home as this is such a whirlwind trip.

      That said, off to Jerusalem tomorrow which should be a trip within itself!

      Thanks as always for your input, good sir.

  9. The Welsh Wizard

    September 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Great photos! What an interesting place and beautiful weather

    • Rob

      September 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      The weather has been great, good to see you around here again Wiz.

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