Israel- Caesarea, Baha’i Gardens Haifa, Acre, Rosh Hanikra

My last tour in Israel was up to the northernmost part of the country.

First stop was Caesarea – originally built by my old friend Herod the Great. Like many places in Israel it has had lots of layers of ownership – Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Christian. As a result a lot of the old city is under water and I’m told this makes for some great diving experiences. The amphitheatre is in good condition and is still used for live concerts. The Hippodrome was used for early Olympic style Games and subsequently for chariot racing.

Then much later in the early 20th century after the city had fallen into disrepair with limited use, Baron Rothschild came over from the UK and developed the land so that it is now one of the most expensive areas of Israel to live in and is the home of one of the only two golf courses in the country.

Next a quick stop in Haifa to view the majestic Baha’i Gardens. The Baha’i religion started in Iran in the 19th century as a modern offshoot of Islam – they have strong social values eg. Equal rights for all and you can only join as an adult when you are able to make this kind of decision rather than being forced into it as a child. It has its international centre in Israel which dates back to the Ottoman period when the Baha’i leader was arrested in Iran and sent to prison in what is now Acre. He decided to stay and purchased the land for the gardens.

There are about 6 million Baha’i members worldwide and to actually tour the gardens you need to be of their faith or taken around by someone who is but it’s great to see the gardens from the view point. The area with the houses with red roofs is known as the German colony as they built it some years ago.

The gardens have 19 terraces. and when I zoomed in to the right I saw Seabourn Encore in dock. Ahhh.

Acre was next. One of the few places that Napoleon failed to conquer – although he tried hard! It has been used as a port continuously for 4000 years. Most recently it was built up by the Ottomans but recent excavations have uncovered a underground city dating back 900 years when the crusaders were actively present. The Hospitallers were a Christian group (like the Templars) who built hospitals and cared for the sick in this place. You can see the blocked arches which have yet to be excavated – there is a lot more to find and it is already huge. Unfortunately, in my opinion they have kind of Disneyfied the interior with cartoon videos and such like to explain where you are. It kind of detracts from the magnificence of what is there (secret tunnels too) and could have been dealt with a lot better. Oh well.

In Rosh Hanikra we visited the caves formed by the waves and the interior grottos.

This is the northernmost part of Israel and we were on the edge of the border with Lebanon where we could see the Israeli army border control and in the distance the UN peacekeeping force in their blue uniforms.

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