Yesterday Amos and I resurrected some of our road-tripping memories from last summer and took a mini road trip in to Caesarea (קיסריה). Yet another place in Israel where the ancient and modern collide, Caesarea is a coastal city along the Mediteranean which houses ruins of Caesarea Maritima. The port town was built up around 25-13 BCE by Herod the Great and was dedicated to Augustus Caesar. Today the modern city of Caesarea is known to be one of the most expenses areas to live in Israel and is home to many well known Israelis, like Bibi Netanyahu (maybe you've heard of him).
This was my first experience visiting an ancient archaeological site (other than Masada on Birthright) and I have to say it is really exciting. Like most things in Israel, I've learned about Caesarea in my Judaic Studies courses and seen many pictures of it. These places become somewhat mythological which makes stepping foot in them magical! It was truly magnificent. I can't believe that people were able to build this huge place without any of the modern technology we have. The most well known parts of these ruins are probably Herod's palace, the Hippodrome, and the amphitheater. It's amazing that they still have concerts at the theatre today.
We also visited the Ralli Museums. Past it's beautiful courtyard, one of the museums houses 6th-18th century paintings of biblical stories. The other holds a collection of mostly Latin American and Spanish art, including some beautiful Dali pieces. Sometimes I struggle with art museums, but I actually really enjoyed seeing the different interpretations of the biblical stories and I loved a lot of the abstract impressionist and surrealist styles of the Latin American/Spanish art.
These two museums are dedicated to the Spanish and Portugese Jews expelled during the Inquisition of 1492, as well as the Thessaloniki community which was almost completely exterminated during the Holocaust. In addition to ancient and holy sites, Israel also has many memorials (many of which are government sponsored). Some of them remember communities and people from long ago, and others remember people lost more recently in Israel's wars and the Intifada's. I think the concept of remembering, not just our traditions, but also each other, is a very important aspect of the Jewish culture. I really appreciate the effort and resources Israel puts into this task of remembering.
In the spirit of Caesarea and being on vacation we ended the day with some overpriced iced coffees and dinner. I can't wait until the next day-adventure!