Daily Archives: May 31, 2011

Apollonoia (Tel Arsuf) and the Plain of Sharon

Apollonia is not mentioned in the Bible, but the site is significant in understanding the land of the Bible. The coastal plain from Tel Aviv north to Haifa is known as the Plain of Sharon. The pasture lands of Sharon were allotted to the tribe of Gad (1 Chronicles 5:16). The plain seems to be mentioned in the account of the healing of Aeneas by Peter at Lydda (the area of modern Lod). Word spread quickly to the residents of Lydda and Sharon.

There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed.  And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.  And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:33-35 ESV)

The city at Tel Arsuf was established by the Phoenicians and dedicated to Reshef, the Canaanite god of fire. The Greeks equated Reshef with Apollo and called the city Apollonia (Alon, Israel National Parks & Nature Reserves, 286).

Apollonia was important to the Crusaders near the close of the 12th century and the decades to follow when the Crusaders “established part of their kingdom in the coastal area of the Holy Land, without Jerusalem” (Alon, 287). The fortress and walls from 1241 A.D. are now part of the National Park.

Our first photo shows the coastal plain of Sharon. Notice especially the kurkar ridge along the coast. Israel highway 2 may be seen a short distance inland. You will see Apollonia on the ridge overlooking the sea.

Aerial View of Apollonia and the Plain of Sharon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial View of Apollonia and the Plain of Sharon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The second photo shows an aerial close up of the site of Tel Arsuf or Apollonia. This site is being damaged by the sea.

Aerial view of the Crusader fortress of Apollonia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Crusader fortress of Apollonia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ha’aretz English Language Edition Magazine reports on an exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, of the “Last Supper at Apollonia.”

Apollonia Final Supper of the Crusaders. Photo: Ha'aretz.

Apollonia Final Supper of the Crusaders exhibition. Photo: Ha’aretz, Leonid Pedrol.

The exhibition offers a first-time look at a collection of Crusader kitchen utensils. The Mameluke siege of the Crusader fortress began in late March 1265. Inhabitants of the area fled to the fortress.

During the few and far-between peaceful times in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the fortress, built a generation earlier and leased to the Order of the Hospitallers just four years before its fall, was home to about 50 knights and their servants. At the start of the siege, which would go on for many bloody weeks, nearly 2,000 people were crammed into the fortress

Ronit Vered, author of the article, describes the siege.

During the five-week siege, more than 2,700 heavy boulders brought in from the Samaria hills were catapulted at the fortress walls. Some 1,200 iron-tipped arrows were fired at the defenders, and arrows wrapped in cloth and dipped in a flammable material were launched at the drawbridge and the heavy door, which was made of wood and bronze plates. The archers of the Order of the Hospitallers returned fire and even launched clay grenades filled with fiery materials at their enemies, but they had no defense against the tunnels dug by the Mamluks to undermine the wall’s foundations. On Thursday, April 29, the Mamluk fighters seized control of parts of the Arsur wall and raised their flag over it.

The Crusaders lost almost 1,000 men in the battle. Prof. Israel Roll led an excavation of the site in 1999. A cache of Crusader kitchen utensils were found. These are now exhibited for the first time at the Eretz Israel Museum.

The complete fascinating article may be read here. Larger images are available for those who may find them useful. Just click on the image above.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer