The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and Caesarea Development Corporation announced on April 26 the allocation of more than 100 million shekels (around $27.5 million) to a renewal project aimed at upgrading the tourist destination and exposing the hidden treasures of Caesarea, located on the coastal plain midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The foundation, corporation, Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Israel Nature and Parks Authority will cooperate on the Ancient Caesarea Renewal Project.
The objective is to expose, conserve and make the ancient public structures and beaches of ancient Casearea accessible.
The project will enable the site to receive three million tourists by the year 2030 and will make the area an important tourist-economic anchor for the residents of the region.
“This enormous project has unprecedented archaeological significance, but it is no less important as a catalyst for tourism and economic activity that will benefit the entire region,” said Rothschild Foundation Vice Chair Guy Swersky at a press conference.
He said that it was a strategic decision to invest in uncovering “the layers of history and exposing the fascinating past of ancient Caesarea.
“The wealth of artifacts already discovered in the excavations greatly enhances one’s experience when visiting the national park and harbor and provides a glimpse into Caesarea as the Roman and Byzantine capital and as an important rabbinic center. The ancient Jewish past of the city has been revealed before our very eyes.”
The port city, also called Caesarea Maritima, was established about 2,030 years ago and constituted one of the premier cities in the Roman and Byzantine Empires due to its important architecture.
Archaeological excavations at the site on behalf of the IAA have revealed many remains that range from the time of Herod the Great (37-4 BCE) to the Crusader period (1101-1187 CE).
A number of significant archaeological discoveries and conservation measures were presented for the first time at the press conference.
Israel Nature and Parks Authority Director General Shaul Goldstein announced that the project would renovate sites, including an ancient Second Temple-period synagogue discovered in the 1940s that was associated with Rabbi Akiva, one of 10 prominent Jewish sages murdered by the Romans.
Josephus Flavius in The Wars of the Jews describes the desecration of a synagogue in Caesarea, which led to the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 66-70 CE.
Rabbi Akiva was brought to trial in Caesarea and executed after the Romans suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 CE).
The development project at the site is intended to conserve the remains of the synagogue, to reconstruct its mosaic and make it accessible to the general public while displaying Jewish content related to ancient Caesarea.
“The launch of this exciting project, particularly during this time of year containing our national memorial days, symbolizes the connection to the roots and history of the Jewish people and this land,” said Goldstein.
Caesarean findings in recent years have included parts of marble statues, granite and marble capitals and columns with inscriptions and drawings, coins, pottery, stone objects, and metal and bone items.
Among those findings was a tiny mother-of-pearl tablet engraved with a seven-branched candelabrum and a coal pan during conservation work on a system of vaults built by King Herod.
The find attested to Jewish life in Caesarea during the Middle Roman and Byzantine periods and showed that Jews were an integral part of the economic and social system of the multicultural city.