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Caeserea, Haifa, Rosh Hanikra and Acre

Jill was working today.

semi-overcast 62 °F

We were both up a little after 6AM today but Jonathon was headed out for a fun sightseeing trip and Jill was headed to work (that is why we’re here!). Jonathon packed up the camera and headed down for a quick breakfast before pickup. First on the bus again today I know the drill. The bus arrived at the depot and Jonathon loaded on with his new travel companions (just for the day). We headed north. Along the way we saw a couple of universities and a large power plant. There have apparently been discussions about moving the plant south because of the high pollution in populated areas. Our first stop was in the ritzy Caesarea neighborhood. For centuries this has been the high luxury area and it continues today as the countries finest golf resort. We were here for the ruins though. As you enter you’re met with a view of the Roman theatre.
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The seating area is in grand condition and is still used for shows today. In the past it provided cheap entertainment for the unhappy masses. Today the cost is apparently quite high for seating on rock benches.
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Past the theatre we dropped down to the sea to see the ruins of Pontus Pilate’s palace. It would’ve been a magnificent view from the back porch with waves crashing right up on the side.
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Next up was the hippodrome and amphitheater. Another entertainment center for the wealthy. The horses would run at high speed often launching their riders or chariots when making the turns. The amphitheater was used to host gladiators fighting for their lives. Eventually both of these dissipated and the area was turned into housing.
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The entire complex is built along the waters edge. The area where waves crash today has seashells piles high on the walkway from the splash. Today was a windy day and the crashing waves left no mystery about how the shells arrive on the path.
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An amazing bathhouse was constructed for use by the wealthy as well. No expense was spared here as marble was imported from Turkey to decorate the floor and walls. Similar to the other baths, the individual would raise his temp in the bath and then step into the cool ocean breeze to dry himself off.
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This was one of the crusaders’ gates. The planning was poor as they placed it on the sea side expecting attackers from that direction. The crusaders were in this region in the 12th and 13th centuries and built upon the ruins here as well.
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This marble sarcophagus with gargon head from the 2nd century BC was also expected to provide protection to the city dwellers. I’m not convinced the gate or the head provided much protection but I’m sure they added a feeling of security for those behind them. You can see from the palm trees that the wind was doing it’s best to blow us out from this site as well.
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Incredibly many of the sites we’ve visited in Israel are still active archeological sites. This one is expected to continue for two years before opening the large building as a museum for Caesarea as well. The archeological crew recently discovered coins that were worth the average citizens annual salary making it even more apparent that this was the wealthy folks’ playground.
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This photo doesn’t do the feat justice but the entire reason Caesarea was a haven of wealth was due to the Roman engineering efforts. Under the direction of King Herod the Romans built this area into a harbor for shipping. Since no natural harbor existed they loaded barges with hydraulic concrete and sunk them to the bed of the sea. Layering one upon another they constructed a safe harbor for shipping and trading. The most amazing products from around the world entered through this man-made port.
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The last stop at Caesarea show-cased another crusader gate but this time for all the right reasons. They created a gate that helped defeat massive attacks. The outer door was thick wood, but if you were able to breach it with fire or force two steel gates would fall behind it. While thos gates held the army at bay archers had clear view of the attackers and took their toll. If the army penetrated those defenses the gate used a simple but effective design to further challenge the enemy. By forcing the attackers to turn right they were off balance because their shield was on the left. When defending crusaders attacked from the right they were able to deliver key blows on their enemy.
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We hopped on the bus and made a quick trip up to see the Roman aqueduct. This aqueduct was used to supply the baths at Caesarea and are very well preserved. It’s a gorgeous scene as the run so near the beach.
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Back on the bus we drove to Haifa. The drive along the water was very beautiful and we had a nice view of Mount Carmel along the way. We drove to the top of town for a top-down view of the beautiful port city and specifically the Baha’i Gardens. This site is a memorial to theBab who predicted the return of the Messiah and was killed in the 1900s. This is a US based religion which really intrigued a few people. Members volunteer to care for the gardens for months or even years at a time.
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We headed for Rosh Hanikra next. It lies directly on the border with Lebanon, hence the warnings at the water. The Israeli army has a presence in the area and there is a massive security fence (wall) on the border. The tunnel that leads through the hill was constructed in 1941 to provide the British army from South Africa and New Zealand to have access to result from further north in Europe. In 1948 Israel sealed the second tunnel to keep Lebanon forces from entering Israel. In the past month Israeli forces initiated Operation Northern Shield to locate and destroy underground tunnels from Lebanon.
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The water crashes against the limestone here and has carved in incredible cavern into the wall. Inside the water crashes loudly as it surges up and sink low in the cave. The path was very wet giving plenty of warning of what was to come but some people didn’t heed those signs. The wave crashed and a small tidal wave soaked two different people in our group. Hehe!! Outside the cave we’re great views as well.
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Driving through Acre, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the demographics are clearly different than other places. Each roundabout had symbols of the various religions on display. The city is 25% non-Jewish which is a high percentage in this country. Acre is an important port city with great history.
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This was also our lunch location on the tour and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. The food just kept coming and it was very good. There were several different pickled items, hummus, fantastic bread, and chicken shawarma.
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After lunch we took a walk through the Acre market. They had fresh fish, fresh produce and many handiwork or crafts. We passed through and stopped to check out the local mosque. Another mosque is located nearby and is said to be the second most important mosque in Israel because it contains a single hair from the beard of Mohamed. That mosque is called the Al Jazeer mosque.
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Deeper through town we found the Knights Kingdom, a museum to the Hospitaliers. There were two orders of knights, Templar’s and Hospitaliers, living in Acre during the crusader times. This district was discovered in 1977 when a small excavation project turned up the top of an arch. As they escalated they discovered the previous city had been built over by the Arabs when they conquered the city. The preserved areas const of an open air market, Jail, a funeral room,the Beautiful Hall for dining/events, the Grand Hall, a crypt and a courtyard (photo below). You can walk through the sewer (grey water) and visit the latrines (shown below).
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The standard gift shop stop to wrap up the tour and we headed home. It was an hour forty five minute drive back to Tel Aviv and most people slept; Jonathon worked on the blog!
When he got back to the hotel it had become very windy. Jill went out to eat with coworkers so he asked for a good direction to walk for food. He ended up at a small cafe, Mersand and ate some delicious shakshuka, bread salad and drank a Goldstar beer. It was not great but at 1/2 liter it did wash down my food well. The walk home was a sandblast as the wind was whipping over the beach and straight at his face. Jill got home shortly after Jonathon. Jill took a shower, and it’s an early night in bed here.
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Posted by cornelljjs 11:25 Archived in Israel Tagged #israel

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