Caesarea קֵיסָרְיָה

Caesarea is a town situated in north-central Israel halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa on the coast near Hadera. The town is part of Hof HaCarmel Regional Council and has a population of nearly 5,000.

Caesarea Maritima was built during c. 20–10 BCE near the ruins of a small naval station known as Stratonos pyrgos, Straton’s Tower, founded by Straton I of Sidon its main function was probably for storage and a warehouses.

Alexander Jannaeus captured Straton’s Tower in 90 BCE. Straton’s Tower remained a Jewish settlement for two more generations, until the area became dominated by the Romans in 63 BCE, when they declared it an autonomous city. The pagan city underwent vast changes under Herod the Great, who renamed it Caesarea in honor of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.

In 22 BCE, Herod began construction of a deep-sea harbor and built storerooms, markets, wide roads, baths, temples to Rome and Augustus, and imposing public buildings. Every five years the city hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions in its theatre overlooking the

Caesarea flourished during the Byzantine period. In the 3rd century, Jewish sages exempted the city from Jewish law, or Halakha, as by this time the majority of the inhabitants were non-Jewish. The city was chiefly a commercial centre relying on trade.

The 9th century Muslim historian al-Biladhuri mentions Kaisariyyah/Cæsarea as one of ten towns in Jund Filasti conquered by the Muslim Rashidun army under ‘Amr ibn al-‘As’s leadership during the 630s.

The area was only seriously farmed during the Rashidun Caliphate period, apparently until the Crusader conquest in the eleventh century. Over time, the farms were buried under the sands shifting along the shores of the Mediterranean.

The mosque in Caesarea is mentioned in writings of the 11th century. It was converted into the church of St. Peter in Crusader times. A wall which may belong to this building has been identified in modern times. Caesarea was under Crusader control between 1101 and 1187 and again between 1191 and 1265.

In 1251, Louis IX of France fortified the city, ordering the construction of high walls (parts of which are still standing) and a deep moat. However, strong walls could not keep out the sultan Baybars, who ordered his troops to scale the walls in several places simultaneously, enabling them to penetrate the city. During the Mamluk era, the ruins of Caesarea Maritima by the Crusader fortress near Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast lay uninhabited.

In 1664, a settlement is mentioned consisting of 100 Moroccan families, and 7–8 Jewish ones. In the 18th century it again declined. In 1806, the German explorer Seetzen saw “Káisserérie” as a ruin occupied by some poor fishermen and their families.

Caesarea lay in ruins until the nineteenth century, when the village of Qisarya was established in 1884 by Bushnaks  – immigrants from Bosnia, who built a small fishing village on the ruins of the Crusader fortress on the coast.

In 1940, kibbutz Sdot Yam was established next to the village. In February 1948 the village was conquered by a Palmach unit commanded by Yitzhak Rabin, its people already having fled following an attack by the Lehi. In 1952, a Jewish town of Caesarea was established near the ruins of the old city, which were made into the national park of Caesarea Maritima.

The Rothschild family agreed in 1952 to transfer most of its land holdings to Israel. The Rothschild Caesare Foundation established the Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Development Corporation Ltd and the company transfers all profits from the development of Caesarea to the Foundation. Today As well as carrying out municipal services, the Caesarea Development Corporation markets real-estate development, manages the nearby industrial park, and runs the Caesarea’s golf course and country club.

 

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