Apollonia – Herzliya

This weekend I took a train to Herzliya, a small beach city one stop north of Tel Aviv. Herzliya was founded in 1924 by seven Zionist pioneers and named after Theodore Herzl, the first person to put forward the idea of a Jewish state. Herzliya is most famous for its beaches, and reminded me a lot of Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara (except a lot warmer). The coastline is lined with affluent tourists and upscale hotels, cafes, etc. Even some of the beaches cost money to lounge in.

Besides the beaches I visited Apollonia (also called Tel Arsuf), now a national park, located at the northern end of Herzliya on a cliff stretching along the Sharon coast. Apollonia’s history goes back to the Persian era (around the 6 century BCE), when it was founded by Phoenicians who fished the coast for snails from which to extract purple dye. Apollonia was later resettled by the Greeks and under the Romans (1-3rd centuries CE) became a real community. The ruins of a Roman villa can still be seen (second photograph). Apollonia was renamed Arsuf by the Muslims who later inhabited the area, and built a wall (first photo) to fortify the city. In 1011 King Baldwin I of Jerusalem conquered Arsuf, renaming it Arsour. Arsour is most prominently known for the battle that took place there in 1191. The Battle of Arsur ended in a decisive Crusader victory and led to their control of the Holy Land for another century. The Crusaders built a port (6th photo), and the fortress (photos 4-11) at the north end of town, in 1241, which only stood for 24 years. In 1265 Arsour was recaptured by the Mameluke Sultan Bibars and was burned to the ground. The last photo depicts what the fortress looked like during the Crusades.

When I visited, Apollonia was largely empty, with only one other group of tourists there. There is not much left of the fortress and city, but the view of the shore and cliffs (3rd, 11th photos) was worth the trip alone. Herzliya’s beaches were much more crowded; even the Hermit’s House (next post) had more visitors than the ruins. Israel’s more famous archeological sites (which I’ll eventually visit) are Caesarea, Masada, and Ashkelon.


~ by jonathanmtsai on November 19, 2010.

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