Caesarea legends

The Caesarea Harbor Roman Adventure Park offers visitors a chance to take part in a Q & A with the likes of Herod, Rabbi Akiva, and Saladin.

Caesarea 88 248 (photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
Caesarea 88 248
(photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
The ancient port city of Caesarea has always been a popular tourist site for both Israelis and foreigners. Day trippers wander through the painstakingly excavated layers of history in the city walls and ramparts, ancient roads, massive hewn slabs of stone left from buildings destroyed long ago, amphitheater and old port area. Can you imagine throwing out questions to King Herod, Rabbi Akiva, Saint Paul and Saladin? Or more recent figures like Baron de Rothschild and Hannah Szenes - who hailed from nearby Kibbutz Sdot Yam. Now it is possible to take part in a Q & A session with some of the late great figures. The project, which employs state-of-the-art technology, is part of a new millennium historic adventure planned by Discovery, the Caesarea Harbor Roman Adventure Park. One starts the journey by watching a film presentation that sweeps viewers off their feet. The technology and artistry involved is almost as wonderful as the historic events presented. The leap backward in time takes one to the Herodian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Crusader eras, and right through to the fledgling days of Zionism in Israel and modern Jewish settlement in the land. Following the screening, visitors are guided to another pavilion to "meet" other historic figures, like Baron Edmund de Rothschild. The town he founded and named after his father, Zichron Ya'acov, is only a short drive from Caesarea. Costumed actors portray a broad range of figures that helped shape the city's rich history. Their images appear on thin transparent screens in front of but away from the computer stations. The visitor can choose from among many questions to ask the characters, prying into their personal history and then-surroundings. Two young children, their parents explaining to them King Herod's strong points, seem far more interested in figuring out how the long-dead but seemingly living, breathing and talking royal appeared in front of them from nowhere, a good few meters off the floor and no strings attached. The Time Tower brings ancient cultures to life and offers an outstanding panoramic view of ancient Caesarea. Divers can don wetsuits and visit the underwater remains of the magnificent sunken port, a Roman shipwreck, lighthouse and ancient breakwater, all of which have not only been excavated, but also provided with explanatory signs. An underwater museum of a very different kind lies in a place originally called "Straton's Tower" after someone believed to have been a ruler of Sidon in the 4th century BCE. In 96 BCE, the site was captured by Alexander Yannai and remained in the Hasmonean kingdom until it was named an autonomous city by the emperor Pompey. For some time, it was the possession of Cleopatra - until it was returned to Herod by Augustus. Over a dozen or so years, Herod built Caesarea into a grand city. With the gentle lapping of waves against the surrounding ancient walls, small boats bobbing here and there on the water and the sun setting on the Mediterranean, Caesarea in the evening becomes a very romantic spot to finish off a dramatic visit to bygone days.