Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Israel Journal II: Caesarea


watercolor of Caesarea by Hallie Cohen
Say you were back in 66 BC and you wanted four rooms with a harbor view in on the coast of Northern Israel. You’d go see a Jewish fellow named Herod who back in Roman times was the equivalent of say a Donald Trump today—albeit Herod had a nasty side. He was so intent that there be no exultation at his death that he ordered there be l0,000 executions on the same day. Well, no one ever said developers were nice people and for a pretty penny you got running water from the aqueduct that fed his Caesarea. The ruins of Herod’s great work replete with Hippodrome and Roman theater are a major tourist attraction today, due in part to the ministrations of another mogul, the Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Visiting them presents history in archeological form since they attest to the waves of conquest that constitute the historical strata of Israeli society. Casearea was taken over by the Romans, then the Byzantines who had converted to Christianity under Constantine. Fortifications were built around them during the Crusades and the Ottoman Turks also conquered Caesarea before it was rescued from its state of oblivion by the Baron, its modern Maecenus. Many tourists are repelled by the site of the huge hydroelectric plant that looms over Caesarea, but there is a poetic justice to it all. Herod like modern technocrats was interested in power in all its forms. 

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