Ashkelon אַשְׁקְלוֹן

Ashkelon is on Israel’s southern coast with a population of nearly 140,00 with an area of 55,000 dunams which makes it one of Israel’s largest cities.  It has a beautiful coastline with white sandy beaches and spectacular Mediterranean views. Along its coastline are expansive parks and outstanding beaches.  The city’s location between the sea and the desert assure a comfortable climate all year round.

A high-tech park covering an area of around 800 dunams is planned for the north of the city.  Ashkelon is currently experiencing a construction boom, of new residential buildings in the north and center, both high-rise and low-rise construction.

Ashkelon is one of the world’s oldest cities and it is steeped in history.  Archaeologists have unearthed a large cemetery for dogs in Ashkelon. They do not know the significance of this cemetery or why dogs would have merited this treatment.

Built upon the ruins of past civilizations it was one of five Philistine city-states that included Gath, Gaza, Ekron and Ashdod. The city is mentioned in Tanach as the place where Delilah cut Samson’s hair to sap his strength (Judges XIV-XVI). Ashkelon was also a great trading center because it lay along the Via Maris, the route linking Egypt with Syria and Mesopotamia.

The city was first settled at the end of the third millennium BCE.  It was conquered by the Philistines in the second half of the 12th century. Following the Israelite conquest of the Israel there ensued several hundred years of conflict. After King Saul was slain by the Philistines, David lamented: Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised  triumph (II Samuel 1:20). Even after David defeated the Philistines in the rest of the land he was unable to conquer Ashkelon. This was finally accomplished by the Assyrian leader Tiglath-Pileser III in 734 BCE. After about 600 years in the region the Philistines disappeared forever.

After a series of subsequent invaders the city flourished under the Greeks and Romans. Under the leadership of the Maccabeans the Jews overthrew the Greeks in the 2nd century and Ashkelon became an autonomous city. It is believed to have been the birthplace of Herod in 37 BCE. He was later to enlarge and beautify the city, constructing a summer house, palaces and an aqueduct. Under the Romans, Ashkelon was also granted the rare privilege of being exempt from taxes. It became a flourishing trade center and a major wine producer.

The city became a Christian city during Byzantine period. It was captured by the Muslims in 638 CE. The Crusaders conquered it in 1153 later to be defeated by Saladin. Richard the Lion Heart led the Crusaders back, but they were driven out in 1280 by Sultan Baybars. The city was then abandoned until 1948. Ashkelon was reestablished as an Israeli city in 1953.

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