Northern Coastal Region
The northern coast of Israel is a medley of sites old and new and offers something for everyone! Let's begin with Rosh Hanikra's dramatic grottos, then on to Akko's impressive walls, fortresses and strongholds from ancient times (declared a UNESCO World Heritage), then to Atlit's "Illegal" Immigrant Detention Camp Museum, and up to Zichron Yaacov's picturesque town jam-packed with spy stories. There's also Haifa, which has often been compared to the steep hills of San Francisco and home to the legendary and beautifully tended Bahai gardens.
Let's stay close to the northern coast with the Western Galilee's dramatic views of the Mediterranean Sea, the Betzet Creek, and the Carmel Mountain ridge. The Arch Cave (or keshet cave - ma'arat hakeshet), lying on a fault, is the roof of a collapsed cave, and great for rappelling. We can walk on a short wheelchair and stroller accessible path, making it easy for everyone to visit.
When you first visit Rosh Hanikra you will notice the dramatic change in the coast line of Israel. This is the only place the Mediterranean where the Mediterranean sea meets solid rock instead of a sandy beach. Let's take the cable car at Rosh Hanikra, the steepest in Israel. We have to walk through the tunnels in the cliff and admire the gorgeous grottos, formed by the crashing waves of the sea and the famous elephant's foot that has been photographed for decades.
The British blasted a tunnel through Rosh Hanikra to create a railway that went from Haifa to Beirut, Lebanon in the early 1940s. A sabotage unit of the Hagana blew up a bridge adjacent to the tunnel in early 1948, to prevent British supplies and troops from entering Israel.
Let's visit the Museum at Kibbutz Lochamei Ha'getaot (Ghetto Fighter's House Museum), the very first Holocaust Museum in the world; it was founded in 1949 by Holocaust survivors who established this Kibbutz. The museum highlights the bravery of those who revolted during World War II and survived with a vision to rebuild their lives. In addition, we will visit the Yad Leyeled Children's Memorial Museum, commemorating the children who perished during the Holocaust. Unlike other museums, this one is geared to children to help them understand what the children of the Holocaust experienced.
Let's visit the Crusaders - or what's left of their world, with a visit to Akko (Acre), home to the Crusader's fascinating 12th century fortress by the ancient port city. We'll discover the 28-foot thick walls, walk through a hidden escape tunnel, visit the vast Knight's halls, see moats, a public latrine, and more! You can follow a fabulous tour with audio-visual presentations on the walls of the 900 year old Crusader buildings. Some of the areas are wheelchair accessible.
While we're here, let's visit The Underground Prisoners Museum, housed in an Ottoman citadel. Prisoners from the Jewish underground were incarcerated here under terrible conditions during the British Mandate period. We'll learn about the daring prison break and the brave men who were sentenced and hanged here by the British. Zeev Jabotinsky, Commander of the Jewish defense of Jerusalem, was the first Jewish prisoner held here.
Then we'll wander the busy market, stop by the Al-Jazzar mosque and visit the Ramchal Synagogue, recreation of a Turkish bath at Hammam al-Basha and Treasures in the Wall Museum.
Napoleon Bonaparte launched a siege on Akko six times without success! The thick walls and Turkish forces were able to repel him and sent him packing back to Egypt.
It's time to be dazzled by the The Tunisian Or Torah Synagogue (also known as the Djerba Synagogue), whose walls are covered with millions of mosaics stones inside and out, plus 140 stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes, birds, animals, Jewish motifs, symbols of the 12 tribes, the zodiac and so much more.
It's time to visit Haifa, a port city city filled with the harmony of Jews, Christians, Arabs and Druze living side-by-side and home to the famous Bahá’í Gardens. Visiting these gardens will be a treat, with 19 landscaped terraces extending along the slopes of Mt. Carmel and tended by 90 local workers from a variety of ethnic and religious communities. We will see, in the middle level, the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith.
Let's walk along the Louis Promenade, at the pinnacle of Haifa, for an exceptional view of Haifa Bay, up the northern coast all the way to Rosh Hanikra.
Haifa offers us numerous museums to visit, such as The Hecht Museum exhibiting archaeology and art, The Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum dedicated to the struggle of Jews attempting to escape Europe after the Holocaust during the British Mandate that opposed Jewish immigration and Israel's early naval history, and The Railway Museum depicting the milestones of the train systems in Israel since their introduction to the region from 1892.
We can visit the Atlit Detention Camp that served as a detention center for illegal Jewish immigrants seeking refuge in Palestine during the British Mandate. Now a museum, the site is dedicated to over 220,000 people who were incarcerated here. We will be able to view a model of the camp, a “Sight and Sound” show, the ship 'Galina' that we can board and interactive computer games depicting the hardships these Jewish immigrants endured.
It's time to enjoy the treats of the quaint town of Zichron Yaacov, located on a high cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Here we can stroll the streets and visit the arts and crafts shops, wineries and the Aaronson House - Nili Museum, dedicated to the clandestine Nili spy ring and another museum dedicated to the First Aliyah (Jewish immigration during the late 19th century). We can take a leisurely stroll in the nearby Ramat Hanadiv Park and Gardens, a gorgeous memorial garden dedicated to Baron Edmond de Rothschild known as The Generous One (Hanadiv) whose philanthropy to the Zionist Enterprise was unsurpassed at the time. We can enjoy a lovely movie with original footage of the Baron's visit to Palestine, as well as the garden's peaceful 17 acres of well-tended gardens and breathtaking view.
Now let's go to Ptil Tekhelet, below Zichron Yaacov, where you will learn about 'Biblical Blue', the valuable dye used for tzitzit and the clothing of the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest). The dye that comes from a snail! This is a great opportunity to swim and snorkel in the Mediterranean Sea and search for the "hilazon", the Murex trunculus snail, source of the dye used for royal clothing in ancient times and for the threads of the tzitzit on four-cornered garments. The production of Tekhelet was forgotten for generations. Today you can make your own tekhelet dye! In the Talmud it states: Tekhelet resembles the color of the sea, and the sea resembles the sky and the sky resembles to the Throne of Honor." (Sifre, Shelach, 15:39)
Now let's go to the Caesarea National Park to get more than a glimpse of one of largest port cities built in antiquity. We can watch a fantastic movie explaining how 2000 years ago King Herod defied nature by building this port and the newest Caesarea Experience. We can see the remains of a fabulous home including a private swimming pool, Roman theatre and bathhouses, hippodrome (horse races), temples and other monumental buildings. We'll learn about Rabbi Akiva who defied the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt and met his death in Caesarea. Caesarea was also home to the Crusaders, Bosnians, Jews, Christians. Today Caesarea is a modern city with a golf course, upscale homes, B&Bs and hotels. Golf anyone?
Let's learn about the Caesarea aqueduct, built in four stages according to the needs of the city. Water was piped in from springs miles away and channeled along the stone arched aqueducts. We can visit some of the aqueduct ruins and be wowed by the technology used 2000 years ago!
It's time for a bit of fun and wet adventure as we walk through a quarter mile of an underground aqueduct at Park Alona (Mei Kedem), an exciting activity for the whole family. Bring your water shoes and a flashlight!
Hippodrome comes from the Greek words hippos meaning horse, and dromos meaning course. Horse and chariot races took place in Caesarea with a magnificent backdrop of the sea. Caesarea was named for Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time.
For more information about Caesarea and the surrounding area, click here.