North of Tel Aviv, in Caesarea, an amazing vacation awaits

The promontory palace at Caesarea; before excavations began, fishermen frequently found Roman coins in the sand.

Insert a shovel anywhere within the New Jersey-sized country of Israel, and you’ll find a trace of one, if not each, of its past reigning civilizations. Or just visit Caesarea, on the Mediterranean Sea, north of Tel Aviv.

Herod, the king of Judea — yes, that Herod — built the city about 25 years before Jesus was born in the area. Designed as an appeasement to Rome and a show of its power, Herod constructed the first man-made port in history.

“It was an artificial harbor in an open sea,” exclaims Jacob Sharvit, marine archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, whose excitement for the site is still palpable. “They understood everything about the wind, the currents. If we were building it today, we’d use different materials, but do it the same way.”

Visitors don wetsuits and, with a water-proof map, explore the ruins — the original breakwater, a Roman shipwreck, Byzantine anchors — in an underwater museum. There’s much to see on land as well, including an amphitheater, hippodrome and bathhouse and the foundation of an imposing palace that once jutted into the crashing Mediterranean waves.

After Herod’s death, the city became the local Roman capital (Pontius Pilate was prefect) until the year 640, when it was taken by Arabs, who ruled until the Crusaders came in 1101. The Crusaders occupied the city on and off until it was taken by the Mamluks in 1261, who left it in ruins. Bosnian Muslim refugees moved there in 1878, later fleeing during the war of 1948. Each community left its signature in city walls, repaired breakwaters and houses of worship.

And that’s just Caesarea proper. Adjacent to the city’s north side are remains of a Phoenician settlement predating Herod. And nearby — 100 meters off shore and 11 to 12 below sea level — marine archaeologists are uncovering a 10,000- to 11,000-year-old Neolithic settlement. Sharvit explains that the work is brand new and has not been published yet, adding with enthusiasm, “It’s like a puzzle: you find pieces, and try to understand the whole picture. I love working in the sea.”

Archaeological must-sees
   
Beit She’arim: Inside hollowed-out limestone caves are hundreds of beautifully carved and inscribed sarcophagi that once held the remains of the 2,200- to 2,400-year-old rich and famous.
   
Masada: In the year 70, about 1,000 fleeing Jews took refuge in a palace in the sky, an aban- doned settlement atop a high and isolated desert mesa. Romans soldiers built a ramp to reach them — the Jews killed one another and themselves rather than surrender.
  
Hezekiah’s Tunnel: Almost 2,800 years ago, to stop invading armies from cutting off Je-rusalem’s water supply, work- ers carved a tunnel to siphon the Gihon Spring’s water un-der the city walls. You can walk its dark, narrow and still-gushing path.

If you go, get a guide

Israel is small, but it would take a lifetime to explore fully. A certified guide is not only your invaluable convoy to the logistics of safe travel in the area, but also to the constantly shifting complexities of its historical and current relationship to the rest of the world. No one understands this better than the affable Michael Bauer, whose educational Galim Tours (www.galimtours.com) are preeminent in Israel.

Your backpack was full of recently published history books.

Israel is a place that one will never finish studying. The more I learn, I realize there is more to learn.

You lean toward complication rather than simple answers. Why?

Any simple answer leads to the next question, which eventually leads to the complexities of faith, science and politics. For those interested in these topics, Israel is a haven. I believe the world is a wonderful gray.

What do you love most about the job?
Being in the field exploring and learning with my groups. I want people to leave with a love and appreciation for this country. Israel is not the Israel that is often portrayed on the media.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…