Antiquities Czar Warns of Storms' Damage to Treasures

The breakwater in Caesarea National Park broken in three areas by high waves during the storm, leaves the antiquities exposed to damage.

The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, yesterday toured Caesarea National Park to take stock of the damage to the antiquities by last weekend's storm.

Calling the damage "a national disaster," Dorfman noted that the breakwater, which was broken in three areas by high waves during the storm, now leaves the antiquities exposed to damage from any future high waves.

Dorfman expressed concern that the storm expected this weekend could further damage the antiquities.

"The damage from the storm is huge all along the coast, from Ashkelon in the south the Acre in the north," Dorfman said adding that if the situation is not remedied immediately through extensive conservation efforts, erosion of the cliff along the beach would continue until it collapses, leading to "the destruction of many ancient cultural treasures of Israel."

Dorfman urged the government to earmark funding for conservation and repairs of the damage caused by the storm.

The storm caused the collapse of the cliff at Ashkelon, exposing and damaging previously unknown Roman buildings.

The head of the Caesarea Development Corporation, Michael Karsenti, who also took part in yesterday's tour, called on the government to move ahead with plans to "restore the artistic treasures that remained." Karsenti said the corporation had warned that the breakwater was in danger of collapse.

"We demand that all bodies - the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the relevant government ministries formulate an emergency solution to replace the breakwater and repair the damage. More storms are on the way and what is important is to save what is still standing."

Karsenti said the budget for restoration and renovation in the national park had been around NIS 60 million before the storm damage.

Dorfman said that since sand is not washed into the ancient ports naturally, nothing stands between the antiquities and the waves.

He also said no action had been taken and there was no strategic approach in government to protecting the antiquities.

"This is a national treasure that cannot be recreated. Nothing that broke apart and fell into the sea can be recreated," the IAA chief said.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority said the park, which is now closed, will reopen soon, after clearing is completed.