Tourist Tip #135 / Tel Dor, the Ancient Hidden Gem in Plain Sight

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Mike Rogoff

Tel Dor, on the Carmel Coast, is a little-known gem. For 2,000 years, from the Late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages, its fresh-water source and an anchorage of sandy bays and rock channels made it a coveted harbor on a hostile coastline. It was colonized repeatedly by a string of Mediterranean mariners: the Sea Peoples and King Solomon, the Assyrians and Phoenicians and Greeks, the Romans and others, right down to the Crusaders.

Remarkably (considering its relative anonymity), the area covered by the excavated ancient city is one of Israel’s largest. Informal paths crisscross the “tel” or mound (beware of pits), revealing the stone skeletons of long-gone civilizations. The heady sense of wide open space is enhanced by uninterrupted sea views from the westerly crest of the hill. The nearby bathing beach of Kibbutz Nachsholim is a big bonus in warmer weather.

One of the most precious commodities of the Classical age was the royal, or Tyrian, purple dye extracted from crushed murex shells found along the Israeli-Lebanese coast. Much indirect evidence of that high-end industry exists, but the diggers of Tel Dor actually unearthed a very rare production facility for this hyper-costly product.

Shipwrecks among the reefs, exposed by scuba-archaeologists, have provided another dimension of the city’s colorful past.

Dominating the skyline as you drive into Nachsholim is a three-gabled building that now houses the Mizgaga ("Glassworks") Museum, with its intriguing collection of artifacts dug out of Tel Dor or salvaged from the seabed. Behind the name lies a tale:

In 1882, Baron Edmond de Rothschild established what would become known as the Carmel Winery, with a branch soon afterward in Zichron Yaakov, just south-east of Dor. The Mizgaga was his bottle factory, managed by a young chemical engineer named Meir Dizengoff. When the factory closed (due to poor-quality sea sand), Dizengoff went on to become the legendary first mayor of Tel Aviv.

Access on Route 7011, off Route 4 (the “Old Haifa Road”), just north of its intersection with Route 70.

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An aeriel view of Hof Dor.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
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HaMizgaga, former glass factory at Nahsholim, now a museum.Credit: Moshe Gilad
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An ancient house on Hof Dor.Credit: Moshe Gilad
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An ancient tomb on Hof Dor.Credit: Moshe Gilad