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Travel:Water Enterprise of Ancient Caesarea - Israel , Feb 12/2021

Updated: Mar 1, 2021


Guided Day Tour with: Seffi Ben-Joseph

www.seffibenjoseph.co.il info@seffibenjoseph.co.il 054-678-8408



A Breif on Ancient Cesaria Maritima


The administrative northern city and its mediteranian harbour were rebuilt and enlarged under Herod the Great during 25-13 BC near the site of a former Phoenician naval station known as Stratonos pyrgos, It was probably named after the 4th BCE king of Sidon, Strato .

Herod the Great, king of Judaea under the Romans, renamed the city for his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus. The harbour served as a base for the Herodian navy, which operated in aid of the Romans as far as the Black Sea.

The city became the capital of the Roman province of Judaea. and subsequently, it was an important center of early Christianity. The city was populated throughout the 1st to 6th centuries AD and destroyed during the Muslim conquest of 640, after which it lost its importance.


Within 100 years Cesarea transformed from a fisherman village to a large city.

Over 50k in population at its hay days, (at a time when Rome's was 100k) resided up to the temple destruction.


A massive water project was executed, when the local wells could no longer supply the growing water needs of the city's rapid population expansion.


2 aqueducts brought water from the many springs located, almost 10 miles away

(16 km) to the northeast.


The first grand aqueduct was built by King Herod (37BC to 4BC) at the time the new city was founded, to bring water from the southern side of Mount Carmel, at Shuni.

A second as high aqueduct was built next to and glued to the first one, by Emperor Hadrian (2nd C AD) when more water was needed from further than Einot Shuni,


These twin parallel aqueducts, termed today as the High Aqueducts, continued to supply water for 1200 years.


A Low Aqueduct from the area of Taninim Nature Reserve was built during the Byzantine period, from a new source of spring water of the shore plane.

The day's tour focused on the nearby sites, from where the water sources were spotted,, aggregated, damed and channeled into the aqueducts leading to the city.


Stop 1 : The Unfinished Aquaduct at: Havazelet 35 Binyamina - Givat Ada



Rooster's crowing at early morning hour, along with a fantastic sunny weather welcomed our arrival at this remote sleepy neighborhood of Binyamina- Givat Ada This northern town made up of 2 communities that merged in 2003 has now an enlarged population of over 16,000. Bintymina was founded in 1922 and was named after the Baron Abraham Edmond Benjamin James de Rothschild, and Giv'at Ada, is named for Baron Edmond James de Rothschild's wife Adelaid (Ada), and was established in 1903 . The area that from ancient times has been rich in water and agriculture, is home to both the Binyamina Winery, producers of about 3 million bottles of wine annually, and the Tishbi Winery, which produces about one million bottles annually. Under the pleasant shadow of a small eucalyptus grove in a public garden where our guide met the group, our gaze spotted the large stone wall section, 200m in length, of an unfinished Roman aqueduct, excavated in 1950

It was abandoned as it was an engineering mistake, either due to the marshes or because it didn't connect as was planned, to the larger Shuni water reservoir, from where the local collected water was channeled into the aqueduct, to supply the water needs of the ancient growing town Cesarea .

Read More: Aqueducts and tunnels: wonders of Roman technology that brought water to the people Some more Historical background shared under Eucalyptus Trees

By our guide Sefi From about 100 BCE major geopolitical and cultural shifts engulfed the Medeteranian basin, which had majorly impacted the Holy Land - squeezed in the middle, between then the declining Parthian empire,(founded by the northern tribes from Turkestman) and the vast expansion of the Roman Empire. Rome stopped being a republic, when the first triumvirate (60-53bc) alliance among three prominent politicians was created. Territory and power were divided between Gaius Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Pompeius was in charge of the middle east territory encompassing also in Israel https://www.ancient.eu/First_Triumvirate/ An early defense treaty which was filed in Rome between Judah the Macabee and Rome, assuring an allegiance to this powerful empire, was later disregarded, and led to the "Big Rebellion. The Hashmonaites dynasty of ancient Judea who was descendant of the Macabee family and but of a lower priesthood class, (NOT from Cohen Gadol) for the first time in the nation's history, assumed a double ruling powers, both of the kingship and of the priesthood. They also adopted fundamental ideological zeal - Zadokim, against the Greek/Roman influences. They unified and created the Judahean kingdom but fought their vassals status against initially the ruling Seleucid empire - descents of Alexander Mocodon, whose sphere of influence reached also far as Iran and Afghanistan. The Hashmonites made treaties with the Parthian and against Rome, defying the earlier Judha Macabee's treaty.. They were also ruthless, abused power, heavily taxed the people, ran raids, and converted the local non Jews by sword, thus were hated by the people. Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach, a Hashmonites relative (brother of queen Salome Alexander) was a Pharisee scholar and Nasi of the Sanhedrin during the reigns of Alexander Jannæus (c. 103-76 BCE) and one of the major a fierce opponent of the ruling Hashmonites class. Marcus Licinius Crassus decided to fight the Parthian empire for fame and money.

To achieve this military goal, he raised the finance for his war campaigns by robbing the rich artifacts from the religious temples, including the one in Jerusalem.

That further increased the hate and zealousness of the Hadhmonites against the Romans, and blinded their comprehension of the empire's mightiness, and the futility of uprising against Rome..

Yochanan Horkanos who cemented the Hashmonite power was the first Hahashmonite king (2nd BCE) between Lod and Jericho, who jewdized all Edomite nesting then mainly on Har Hevron. The Edomite settled on the deserted mountain ridge, following the first temple destruction, and were also pushed there due to the Nabatieh expunsion up north. Shimon bar Giora the leader of one of the major Judean rebel factions, during the First Jewish–Roman War in 1st AD, was a Jew from the converted Edomites.

So was Antipater an Edomite convert.. He who became a service politician at the royal house, served as a State Secretary under Hashmonite ruling. He had a much better cosmopolitan grasp, and diplomatic wisdom in handling relationships with Rome. Antipater gained power by making himself useful to the Romans. Antipater was the father of king Herod. The son like his father was also blessed with his father's wisdom. In return for Antipater’s support Caesar later appointed him procurator of Judaea in 47 BCE. Under the ruling of king Herod, Judea kingdom benefited from 40 years of peace, stability and grand development. Large Afarsemon scent orchards, Date Groves, and taxing the nation, as well as good relations with the Romans, provided Herod with the funds and conditions needed for his grand building projects including the water aqueducts. Jerusalem was the Hashmonaite's religious and elite capital, but King Herod who was despised and looked down upon by the Hasmonite dynasty, despite his marrying into the family, needed a different less politically hostile capital.

Channeling water to Cesarea the new capital Water that was supplied by wells but was not enough for the enlarged city.

Thus an Aqueduct to bring water from sources away was a necessity. The many flowing springs in the nearby planes, at 6m higher than where Caesarea is located, were diverted to Shuni, and from there, where the high aqueduct was constructed, was led to the city. Alas, 900 m before Caesarea the aqueduct stopped, and it is unknown how the water reached and distributed inside the city.


Stop 2 - Amikam via Park Alona - Wells and Piers


This charming small moshav near Zikhron Ya'akov, of about 700 people, specializes in fruit and cattle farming. It was established in 1950 by Jewish refugees from Harbin, Manchuria and Shanghai, China, on a land that had belonged prior to 1948 to the depopulated (about 2000) Palestinian village of Sabbarin (zabar cactus)


More on amikam in Hebrew.

Pink budding bloom of almond trees, farmed loquats groves, naked grapes' vines in between endemic Oak trees, and green meadow patches dotted by roaming cows, surround this pastoral village, situated at Bikat Hanadive, a valley blessed with springs and streams.

Driving all the way through the village's narrow main road leads eventually at its end, to a field unpaved way blocked to the passing cars, by an iron barrier. Our guide and his special contacts got the land owner to open the gate and let our car caravan in.


Once inside the field, we were let in by a small iron wicket off the unpaved road through a path shaded by an enchanting tangled vegetation. ,





The path led toward a hidden ancient water well, already built during the Roman era and which was used throughout history up to also by the Sabbarin's palestinian villagers.



The area is full of many similar wells like the one we visited. They are part of the water network, excavated in ancient times, when the wtaer was captured and channeled to also supply the water needs of Cesarea.


10 minutes drive on other unpaved roads, away from the visited Amikam well, through cultivated fruit tree groves and vines, in the back of Park Alona, we encountered ancient water piers in 40 m intervals, from each other, and connected by an underground tunnel, which were alos built by the Romans 2000 years ago.

The water tunnel is part of a network which streamlined water to the city of Caesarea. It was built during the Second Temple Period when both King Herod and the Roman Emperor Hadrian, built grandly throughout Israel.


The water project consisted of a complex of wells, tunnels, and aqueducts that channeled captures water from the many water springs and aquifers running from under the Menashe plato and by Carmel shores, designed to bring drinking water and irrigation for the area's farming and to Caesarea. The entire water system is 22 miles long and just the tunnel itself is nearly 4 miles long. A section length of 250 meters of the tunnel can be toured. Special Roman cement which was mixed with a pinky volcanic ashe and used to seal and protect the tunnel network, lasted for centuries and prevented water leaks

. Top branch of Nahal Taninim (Crocodile Stream) crosses this visited area,

The Nahal starts at Ramot Menashe and runs near the Arab town Jisr az-Zarqa, and speels into the Meditorenian sea. It is fed by 4000 erial springs, as is the near by Nahal Avniel.

Stop 3 : Shuni - Park Jabotinski- water pool


Shuni is 5 meters in elevation higher then caesarea is.

The Grand aqueducts started here from a water basin.

3 m below the ground, an underground tunnel was connected to the aqueduct. The compound was a flourishing settlement in Roman times, as the discovery of theater remains, Byzantine olive press.and other archeological finds from the period attest.

The village which is located on the south spur of the Carmel mountains, was also called mayumas alluding to Maim, the water pool used in Romans Mayumas ceremonial holidays and fertility rights. The ancient reconstructed theater, may have been the site of an ancient water pool where the aqua celebrations took place Shuni have been a silo center in the far past and also Etzel training center in the nearer past.


Stop 4 - Beit Chanania Aqueduct


The house of Hanania is a small moshav of about 900, founded in 1950, and named after Hanania Gottlib, a leader of the PICA It is located close to the south edge of Mount Carmel, close to Zikhron Ya'akov and across from the Arab village Jaser el Zarka, on land that belonged prior to 1948 to the Palestinian depopulated village of Kabara.



Once entering of the moshav, an impressive part of the 2 grand aqueducts which led water to Caesarea from the plentiful springs collected in Shuni, are immediately noticed, as is the post on Israel National Trail which runs through the moshav.


Few layers of reconstruction patches made to the walls are noticed both on the

aqueduct built in Hadrian's time and just next and attached to the Herod's one. Also , broken ceramic pipes, which were added later by the Mamluks, are exposed on the top of the aqueducts, as well as vegetation sediments remains from the old marsh stuck to the wales are in full view.


Hadrian inscription & insignia and mile stone post of the 10th legion, which most probably constructed the aqueduct, as it had, many other building projects, during the legion's military service in the holy land, are clearly noticed on the side of the wall.


On the insignia. Atlas who bore the sky aloft. personifying the quality of endurance, the Goddess Nike personifying victory and a Roman vulture, are inscribed. All personifying victory and power symbols, maybe alluding to the triumph over Bar kochva rebel, 5 Roman Legions consisting of 180k soldiers altogether, were stationed after the rebels in the land,. They were occupied, in addition to keeping order, also with the infrastructure work.

Stop 5: Nahal Taninim Reserve - Dam and Aqueduct


By the time we arrived at the sea shore reserve, a bit after 2:00pm the Reserve's guard notified us that an arbitrary decision was taken to close the entrance for the day, instead of keeping it open, up to 4:00pm, as it should.. So we only bird-view scouted the reserve nature, wildlife, and archeological remains, from the elevated surroundings around it, while our guide shared on what we had missed..

Taninim Stream Nature Reserve is located nearby the Arab village of Jiser el zarka The Taninim River flows through the park, both of which are named after the alligators ( Taninim) that, until the beginning of the 20th century, lived in the nearby Cabra swamp.

Actually the entire area from the Carmel slopes up to the shore, was one large marshland once inhabited by Egyptian and Sudanese labourers from the al-Awarana tribe brought in, by 1930. When the marshland was redeemed by the Jewish settling efforts, the Arabs who lived in the area were given after 1948, the current hilly land of zarka.


North of the reserve Ma’agan Michael; fish ponds are located near the stream and are an attraction for many birds Impressive remains of one of the most significant water enterprise leading to Caesarea, in the form of a Low aqueduct and a large dam were built on the origin of Nahal Taninim, which passes through the reserve. and which created a lake to power up flour mills and serve as a water carrier source to Caesarea’s aqueduct.

Nachal Taninim, water flow gathered from the surrounding springs channeled by tunnels into a large dam and pool (Timsach), that regulated the water flow on its way on the low aqueduct to Cesarea.




After the Byzantine period, the dam was neglected and behind it the wide Kabara Swamp was created, sprawling from the dam up to the slopes of Mount Carmel.

The well regulated and cultivated terrain transformed into a useless marshland thanks to the Mamelukes' efforts. To deter the crusaders from returning and casting their war pilgrimage back in the holy land, the Mamluks in 13th had invested in turning the land to a useless desolate area by destroying all the regulated water sources and flooding the shore terrain into marshland. For 600 years the shore land was kept unattractive and flooded, until the massive Jewish land purchase, and drying of the marshes occurred.


Up until the 20th century, crocodiles occupied the swamp, giving the stream its name. The last crocodile in the stream was hunted down in 1912.

There are remains of flour meal on the river, and small lake behind the wall . Stop 6: Tel Taninim by Jiser el zarka Beach


Driving on a narrow road through this small coastal fisherman’s village the only remaining Arab town in Israel on the Mediterranean Sea, located just north of Caesarea and just south of the Taninim Nature Preserve, was a painful experience..

The village's density, lack of charm and neglet doesn't do justice to the prime location it is situated at, right by most quint beach strip, where Nahal Taninim's estuary fllows.into.



Tel Taninim or Tell al-Milāt - is assumed to be an ancient archaeological kurkar send mound on Jiser el Zarka shore near the Taninim reserve where the Greek name of the Hellenistic town Krokodeilon polis, 'Crocodiles City was.

The mound was occupied from the Persian (475-332 BCE) to the Crusader period,

Phoenician pottery is the earliest found at the site,


The small port serving as a safe ancore to the colorful fishing boats are in full view from the Tel Taninim's top of the hill, as is the reconstructed small low stone bridge over the Nahal Tanininm estuary, which was built for kiezer Vilehelm ll at his visit to the holly land in 1898 ..

This enchanting area is well worth the visit.





THE END