A pair of leviathan-sized sculptures of whales washed ashore recently on the newly-constructed boardwalk north of the Ashkelon Marina. The NIS 1.25 million installation is both a children’s playground and public art, featuring swings, slides and a climbing wall. Funded by the Ministry of Tourism, the work was created by sculptor and painter Arale Ben Arieh of Moshav Tzafririm near Beit Shemesh, who drew inspiration from the image of the whale as a mysterious and awesome sea mammal.“The whale represents the city’s ancient heritage as described in the Scriptures,” Ben Arieh said, even if biblical Ashkelon is better known as the Philistine city where Samson had his seven locks shorn by Delila and then pulled down the Temple of Dagon.Ben Arieh, 54, studied sculpture with Moshe Shek of Bet Nir and RafiMintz of Jaffa. In addition, he has worked with Palestinian potters andwood-workers in Gaza and Hebron, giving his art a timeless andutilitarian dimension. His 11-meter-wide and 9-meter-highenvironmentally friendly Ashkelon whales are constructed from materialsable to withstand the Mediterranean’s briny sea breezes.The installation of the whale sculptures completes the newest sectionof the boardwalk along Ashkelon’s 10 kilometers of public beach. Atender for the next section, which will connect the marina with theDelila Beach and its Ashkeluna water park, will be published shortly,according to Ministry of Tourism spokeswoman Lydia Weitzman.Ashkelon has been the focus of an NIS 24 million, multi-yearinfrastructure development program funded by the Ministry of Tourism inconjunction with the Government Tourist Corporation and the localmunicipality. The Ministry also assists in hotel development,publicizing events and festivals in the city.