Tel Ashkelon – Ashkelon

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Background: Tel Ashkelon, or Ashkelon National Park, is the site of the ancient city. Ownership of the city has switched hands many times, and has belong to just about every race between the Canaanites to the Ottomans. The national park therefore showcases ruins and architecture from all these different cultures, starting from the oldest arched gate in the world (first couple photos), ancient water wheels and wells, a Byzantine era church (photos right after the walls), a Roman Basilica (pillars in the fields) and theater, and statues found of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and two of the Greek goddess Nike. A trail takes you around the tel by the leftovers of the ancient walls that protected the city. Another takes you down to the beach where you can see the remains of an ancient breakwater and port. Pillars and ruins are still standing on the beach and in the sand. Tel Ashkelon is still has many active dig sites, which are still visible and some open to volunteers. One of my fellow Fulbrighters‘ project is working in the Ashkelon archaeological site. The park also doubles as a recreational park and campground, and the largest (ancient) dog cemetery was found in Tel Ashkelon.

Impressions: At first Tel Ashkelon looked the same (or more ruined) than all the other tels I’ve seen in Israel. The “oldest arched gate” was pretty much reconstructed, and while the walled path was cool, it was just more ruins. The church and Roman basilica were nothing more than pillars marking the spots where these things once stood. The theater looked pretty new, and the statues of Isis and Nike (featured prominently on the brochure), were piled in a heap of other sculptures and fenced off so they were very difficult to see. There were some cool subtle differences, like pillars sticking out of  and strewn into the the ancient walls, and a star of David carved into the walls (see photos), but nothing was, in my opinion, that impressive, until I reached the beach. The beach (underneath a cliff) starts off as a normal beach with people enjoying the Mediterranean, until you move past the warning signs about falling rocks and unstable ruins. There the ruins are pretty cool. The wall along the cliff, once used to protect the city, is dangling above the beach, and the pillars used to hold everything are exposed. The pillars are also scattered on the sand and into the water. The sand itself is full of sea shells, unlike any of the beaches in Ashdod or Tel Aviv. The rocks are redder and more colorful, and that and the color of the water and the presence of the ruins give the beach a very cool feel.

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~ by jonathanmtsai on May 24, 2011.

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