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  • Writer's pictureIsrael Gulf Report

What to see? Ashkelon and the Mediterranean coast of Israel

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

The medieval walls of Ashkelon are built on the 4,000-year-old Canaanite glacis and overlook the southern coast of Israel. (Matt Churchill)


In spite of being such a small country, Israel contains very distinct geographical regions: the Negev desert, the highlands around Jerusalem, the Dead Sea rift, and the verdant Galilee/Golan regions to the north. This article briefly explores one of the country's greatest prizes, which is the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea.

On a trip to Israel you will want to maximize your time on the coast. One of my favorite sites is Tel Ashkelon National Park because it has a fascinating history as one of holy land's oldest harbors, going back 4,000 year to the Canaanite period. In the 1990's L. E. Stager of Harvard University discovered the most ancient arched gatehouse in the world that dates to around 1850 BCE. Who ever said the Romans invented the arch!?

In spite of being such a small country, Israel contains very distinct geographical regions

Ashkelon has within its name the term for a weight of currency: the shekel. It happens to still be the standard of currency in the modern state of Israel - the new Israeli shekel. But Stager's excavations unearthed an ancient maritime market that dates to the time when the Philistines ruled a pentapolis of towns in the southwest coastal plain of Palestine between circa 1200 to 604 BCE, when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia wiped out this very noble people, sending them into captivity. In any case, the market and other finds are a testament to the highly developed Philistine culture, despite what their name sometimes implies.

Old Roman granite columns were used by the Crusaders to reinforce the walls of their harbor. (Matt Churchill)

You will want to also make time to walk along the medieval walls of Ashkelon. The winding trail takes you above Fatamid ramparts and past Crusader towers before leading down the craggy cliffside to the beach. Some of the old port can be still be seen, although most of it is buried in the sand. But yes, bring your swim trunks and maybe even a kite or a frisbee because there is a wonderful grassy picnic area for these types of things.

You can walk into Ashkelon through the oldest arched gate yet to be discovered in the world. (Matt Churchill)

5 must-see places along Israel's coast:

1. Tel Aviv/Jaffa: a stay in Israel is incomplete without experiencing the exciting nightlife of "the big orange". Bauhaus architecture, colorful street markets and a very progressive modern ethos make this place a hotspot.

2. Caesarea: this is a classic gem complete with hippodrome, palace, theatre, and harbor built by Herod the Great for his patron, Augustus Caesar, around the same time he rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem in the late first century BCE. Caesarea also boasts Israel's only 18-hole golf course.

3. Haifa/Mount Carmel: Saint Elijah made Mount Carmel famous and that is one of the reasons why it is sacred to the Bahai faith. On nineteen beautifully landscaped terraces, climbing up Mount Carmel and looking out over Haifa bay, are the exquisite Bahai Gardens.

4. Akko/Acre: the old city is a UNESCO world heritage site which has an enormous Crusader layer hidden under the Turkish Suq. Be sure to walk on top of the sturdy Ottoman ramparts which helped to repel Napoleon's invasion in 1799. You can also eat some of the best hummus and kanafe that Israel has to offer.

5. Rosh Hanikra: this is Israel's most northern tip of coast on the border with Lebanon. Take a cable car to explore fascinating grottoes carved by the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Matt Churchill is an Israeli tour guide who can show you the wonders of the land and can be reached at hus website .

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