Up and down the Mediterranean

The holidays are here, and their kilometers of inviting beaches apart, our popular Mediterranean resorts offer plenty to see and do for visitors both from home and abroad.

By ANN GOLDBERG
September 3, 2010 17:13
4 minute read.
CAESAREA’S ANCIENT port

Caesarea. (photo credit: ANN GOLDBERG)

Netanya now offers a bird’s eye view of the sea just by stepping out along the new overview bridge, which is part of the sea elevator situated at the center of Harishonim Parade. You no longer have to trek down to the expansive beaches, but can go up and down in comfort – ask the eight million people who have already experienced it.

Visit the Well House (corner of Weizmann and Sokolov streets). This is the restored remains of the Pardes Hagdud Farm established in 1927, two years before the city of Netanya was founded. It was set up by former soldiers from the Jewish battalions and formed its own community with its own schools.

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Not surprisingly, considering the military background of the founders, it was an important base for the Hagana in the time leading up to the founding of the State of Israel.

Check out the municipality’s Web site for the many special events each week through October http://www.netanya.muni.il/Eng.

Tel Mond, about 14 kilometers from Netanya, is now home to a growing group of young Anglo-Saxon immigrants. The area also has a number of attractions for children.

They will have fun visiting the Parrot Farm there, as well as the Tractor Museum at Ein Vered. You can also take a two-hour tour of a bee farm at nearby Moshav Mishmeret – but you’ll need to call in advance to arrange the tour and state your language preference (09) 796-1260 or 054-574-4223.

Caesarea, King Herod’s capital and major port for ancient Israel, comes to life both in the past and present. A visit to the national park will show you the ancient hippodrome, the Roman theater, and the remains of Herod’s Palace, sarcophagi and statues.

Then, if you visit the Caesarea Harbor multimedia presentations, you’ll be able have an interactive conversation with some of Caesarea’s most famous residents of past centuries such as Rabbi Akiva, Saladin and Baron Rothschild.

Afterwards you can travel backwards in the Time Tower and, using computerized 3D technology, see the ancient port in all its glory superimposed on the ruins outside the window in the National Park.

There are restaurants, snack bars, art galleries and shops selling attractive gifts and souvenirs.

Sdot Yam, which is next door, houses an antiquities museum exhibiting many artifacts found underwater near Caesarea.

Marine archeology has brought up weapons and pieces from shipwrecked boats dating as far back as Napoleon’s fleet. The museum is also home to the Hannah Szenes House.

Szenes made aliya from her assimilated home in Hungary before World War II, but, once the war had started, found she couldn’t sit back and enjoy her new life in Kibbutz Sdot Yam. After training with the Palmah, she parachuted into Yugoslavia, intent on returning to nearby Hungary in an attempt to help the Jewish resistance and, ultimately, save her family.

She was caught by the Nazis and – after extensive torture during which she divulged nothing – was sentenced to death by firing squad. In the small suitcase she left behind in Sdot Yam were her poems and diary.

Her bravery and strong love of the Land of Israel, and especially the area where she lived, have been a source of inspiration to the many people who have read her writings. In this modest house you can see a moving film about Szenes’s life, and afterwards take a walk along the beach that inspired her famous poems.

A walk around the kibbutz will introduce you to the large collection of pieces of Roman pillars and statues which decorate its lawns and parks. There seems to be a very large number of artifacts, and not enough room to store them.

Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s ancient twin city, is well known for its connection to the prophet Jonah.

He set sail from here, believed to be the oldest port in the world, on his ill-fated voyage which ended with him being swallowed by a “whale.” Until recently the port area looked like it hadn’t changed much over the thousands of intervening years – but now it’s being cleaned up and rebuilt as a major commercial center.

However, you can still take a short boat ride along the Tel Aviv-Jaffa coastline, hopefully with a more normal docking than Jonah’s.

Jaffa’s Old City is a favorite for visitors, who enjoy wandering among the museums, art galleries and small shops in the cobbled alleyways. Afterwards you can enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants overlooking the sea.

You are quite likely to catch a glimpse of a bride and groom, with their photographer taking memorable photos for the wedding album against the backdrop of the sun setting over the Mediterranean.

Spanning the attractive park on the promontory is a bridge known as the Wishing Bridge. It is decorated with signs of the zodiac and, according to tradition, if you gaze out to sea while placing your hand on “your” sign of the zodiac, your wish will be granted.

True or not, it does make for a great photo.

Take a free walking tour any Wednesday morning at 9:30, starting from the four-faced clock tower at Kikar Kedumim, by the underground visitors’ center.

There’s no need to book; just turn up on time. Inside the visitors’ center, which has just been revamped, you can see a sound and light show about Jaffa’s long history up to the present day. This square is also the site of many outdoor musical and dance performances during the summer evenings.
Enjoy!


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