Tourist Tip #319 / Ashkelon National Park: Sun, Sea, and Ancient Ruins

This is the place to see the world's oldest arched city gate, then barbecue and swim.

How old is the city of Ashkelon? That’s anybody’s guess but it definitely goes back more than 5,000 years, serving as a central Mediterranean seaport for the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians, the Romans too – and let us not forget the Crusaders. All left behind relics and ruins, including purportedly the oldest arched city gate in the world, which was restored in 2008.

And it’s right there in the Ashkelon National Park, located in the heart of the Old City. It is a a gorgeous place not only to relax by the seaside or on the well-groomed lawns, but also to get a feeling for the millennia of yore.

The park is bordered by an ancient earthen dike more than two kilometers long that goes back more than 4,000 years, built by the Canaanites to ward off raiders. It was during digs of that dike that the giant double-story ancient arched gate believed to date from around 1,850 BCE was found.

Atop the dike are walls built by Fatimid Moslems in the 12th century to deter the Crusaders. Other ruins found in the area of the park include a Roman basilica and a city hall dating back to the time of Herod.

Now think that after walking along the dike and feeling that history with your hands, you can have a nice picnic and swim in the summer-warmed sea. There are even barbecue facilities available for your use, if you happen to show up with raw food, charcoal and matches.

The middle of the park sports remains from the Roman era, including a vast pillared edifice, next to which is a statuary featuring pieces found during excavations of the city. Picnic tables are located in this area, as is the 10,000-seat amphitheater.

During summer, until November, the park is open from 8 A.M. until 10 P.M., though visitors are not let in after 8 P.M.

Cost: NIS 29 per adult, NIS 15 per child. Parking is free. Telephone for information: 08-6736444.

Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad