Visiting Jaffa, Caesarea & Beit She’arim National Park in Israel
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.
P.S: Changed money today, check out the Israeli Shekel.