There’s plenty to explore in this coastal city that was built up by King Herod in Roman times and today offers world-class recreation. Here archeologists have uncovered significant Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Crusader structures and artworks, and here some of Israel’s high-tech companies are turning out state-of-the-art products.
By Avigayil Kadesh
Where is the only 18-hole golf course in Israel? Caesarea, a Mediterranean port city halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Two years ago, a new Pete Dye-designed course opened here to the great delight of local and international golfers.
But Caesarea isn’t only about year-round golf and sandy beaches. The modern upscale town of some 4,200 residents – the only municipality in Israel run by private management – is known for its mix of the very old and very new. Here archeologists have uncovered significant Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Crusader structures and artworks, and here also some of Israel’s high-tech companies are turning out state-of-the-art products.
Caesarea’s ancient Roman aqueduct and amphitheatre, the oldest surviving Roman theater in the eastern Mediterranean region, provide the setting for an annual world-class Jazz Festival. Its harbor, dedicated to Augustus Caesar more than 2,000 years ago, today is bustling with restaurants, cafes, art galleries and nightlife.
Aqueduct (Arches) Beach (Photo courtesy Israel Ministry of Tourism)
Even its waters yield important clues from the past, as University of Haifa geo-archeologist Dr. Beverly Goodman has been discovering in her forays among undersea shipwrecks and shattered fragments. It was in Caesarea that Goodman found evidence of an ancient tsunami that destroyed Herod the Great’s first-century harbor. She’s using the data to help predict future environmental events and to make recommendations for preserving the fragile coastline as sea levels rise.
However, you don’t have to be a PhD to experience the treasures of coastal Caesarea. Leah Schneider of the Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Caesarea Development Corporation says that amateur and professional divers can enjoy Caesarea’s all-seasons Underwater Archeological Park, an ambitious $4.6 million project opened in 2004 in cooperation with the University of Haifa.
The first of its kind in the world, the park offers four diving complexes (one of them for snorkelers) with 25 marked exhibits in the sunken harbor pointing out basins, breakwaters, loading piers, storage rooms, a promenade and a lighthouse. Wrecked ships and cargos, ancient anchors and an illegal immigrant ship are among artifacts discovered on the seabed.