Apollonia National Park (Tel Arsuf)

​​​

Apollonia National Park is on a kurkar (calcareous sandstone) promontory facing the seashore of Herzliya.

In the park there is an impressive Crusader fortress – a romantic backdrop for couples in love, and also an exciting setting for children to let their imagination run wild.

 points of interest

  • The moat
  • The Roman seaside villa
  • The Crusader fortress
  • The coastal path
  • The glass furnace
  • Sidna Ali Mosque
  • The Dinosaur House

 

Points of interest in detail:

The city moat - the southern side of the city moat was excavated in 1998, and helps us to  estimate the size and strength of the city in Crusader times. In 1996 the eastern city gate, which still lies in grounds belonging to IMI (Israel Military Industries), was excavated. The moat can clearly be seen to continue beyond the excavated area, and it is about 4.5 m deep.
 
The Roman seaside villa- at the beginning of the 1980s a small part of the Roman villa was excavated, but it was only after intensive excavations in 1998 that the villa was revealed in all its glory. The Roman villa, overlooking the sea, is dated to the 1st century CE, and was destroyed in an earthquake in 118 CE. 

The Crusader fortress- construction of the fortress is dated to 1241, and its destruction to 1265, when the city was captured by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars. The fortress building was influenced by similar fortresses in southern England, and is evidence that the architect was European. The fortress has three systems of fortification: a wide and deep moat, a first wall (the external fortification array), and a second wall and donjon (keep). The fortress was built by Balian of Ibelin, Lord of Arsur, but in 1261, at the start of Baibars' campaign to the land of Israel, it was handed over, along with the entire city of Apollonia, to the control of the Hospitaller Knights. Baibars besieged the city for 30 days, and the fortress for another three days. At the foot of the fortress is a small sea anchorage at which boats could tie up.
 

The coastal path- from the point where it splits off, the path descends towards the Roman villa, and then follows the route of the city wall. The trail rejoins the upper trail at the Tamarisk tree compound.
 

The glass furnace- the glass furnace at the entrance to the park was in use in the Byzantine period (6th century CE). So far 12 furnaces have been found around Apollonia, and it seems that the glass industry was one of the most important branches of the city's economy. By firing at a particularly high temperature (1,100°C) in the glass furnace, the raw material, mainly the silica found in beach sand, was turned into a sheet of raw glass, 50 cm thick. After firing, the glass sheet and the furnace were dismantled, and so the furnace was used for only one firing. From the quantity of potsherds found near the furnaces, it can be concluded that they were used a number of times for making pottery vessels before glass was fired in them, after which they were abandoned and a new furnace was made. 
 
Sidna Ali Mosque– Sidna Ali mosque was built in 1481, and was named after the soldier Ali Ibn Alim (Al-Hasan ibn Ali), who, according to Muslim belief, fell in battle against the Crusaders at Apollonia in 1250. The minaret of the mosque rises to a height of 21 m. The mosque was built by Shams al-Din, whose tomb is in the town of Jaljulia. The mosque is in use today, and entry is permitted only in modest dress.
Between the mosque and the cliff is an ancient Muslim cemetery, which is an antiquities site, containing the tombstone of Sheikh Mansour and a number of neglected shaft tombs.

The Dinosaur House – quarrying the caves in the sandstone rock created an interesting and mysterious structure. It was named the "Dinosaur House", and Herzliya Municipality has given it the status of a tourist site. The Dinosaur House attracts many curious visitors, and beautifies the shoreline. The upper part of the structure is on the border of Apollonia National Park, but it lies mostly in the area of Herzliya Municipality.

 

Lookout points

  • The Tamarisk lookout – from the clifftop looking out to sea, to the coastline and the Crusader fortress
  • The view of the sea from the "Lovers Bench" – a romantic picnic site
  • The Keep (donjon) – looking out to sea from the tower at the top of the cliff
  • Lookout to the disappearing bay

 

Identity card

Status:
Apollonia National Park is, in fact, two parks: One – Apollonia National Park (an approved park under National Outline Plan 8), and the other – Sidna Ali National Park (declared in 1969).

Reasons for declaration:

  • Sidna Ali was declared as a national park by virtue of being a historic building for conservation. The 14th century complex includes the mosque and the buildings around it.
  • Apollonia National Park was approved because of the Crusader city, whose outline can be seen in the area to this day.

 

Geographic location:

Apollonia is located to the north of Herzliya Pituah. Sidna Ali is within the boundaries of Herzliya Pituah, and borders to the north on the Apollonia city walls. The two parks are on a kurkar (calcareous sandstone) cliff, and face out to sea.

 

Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority

  • Actions to protect the cliff
  • Archeological excavations and preparing the park for visitors (the southern moat, the Crusader fortress, the Roman villa)
  • Conservation activities (the glass furnace, the fortress, the Roman villa, the water pools, the Samaritan wine press)
  • Preventing damage caused by foxes to the foundations of the fortress
  • Cultural and folklore events that bring the site's past to life
  • Preparing picnic areas for the benefit of visitors
  • Organizing clean-up campaigns in the Sidna Ali National Park
  • Planting trees (oaks and carobs) transplanted from Road 5 by the Yarkonim junction when the road was paved, and transplanting tamarisks and jujubes from Road 531, between Horshim and Rishpon
  • Preserving the kurkar ridge as a disappearing habitat

 

History

The main part of the park is the ancient city, settled for the first time by the Phoenicians in the  6th century BCE. The Phoenicians called the place Arshuf, after the god Reshef. They produced purple dye here, and traded with the countries of the Mediterranean and with the inhabitants of the interior.
The Greeks identified Resheph with Apollo, and so they called it Apollonia.
During the Roman period (1st – 3rd centuries CE) the city grew and developed, as evidenced by the villa discovered in the south of the site – a villa that was wonderfully well planned and constructed in accordance with the best western architectural tradition.
During the Byzantine period (4th – 7th centuries CE), Apollonia (then called Sozousa) reached the peak of its prosperity and was the urban center of south Sharon. The city covered an area of 280 dunams, and had facilities for processing agricultural produce, an extensive glass industry, a splendid church, and an active port.
Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE, the area of the city was reduced to 90 dunams, and its name was changed to Arsuf. It was surrounded by a wall, and in the center, a market street was built.
In the year 1101 the city fell into the hands of the Crusaders, who restored its fortifications, and also built a magnificent fortress in the north, which had a gate with semicircular towers on either side and large halls around an open courtyard. The fortress had three sets of walls, surrounded by a broad moat, and a protected harbor was built on the breakwaters at the foot of the cliff.

 In 1265 the city was captured by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars, and on his orders, razed to the ground and never inhabited again.

During the Late Arab period the nucleus of the settlement moved to the area of Sidna Ali mosque. The mosque was built in the 14th century, and in it is the grave of Ali Ibn Alim, one of the notables of the city of Arsuf.
In 1942 a British police station was established at the site – the Sidna Ali police station. It was equipped with radar, to prevent illegal immigrant ships from reaching the shore. With the establishment of the state, the Naval Command was briefly housed there, and then a rehabilitation institution for juvenile delinquents, which is still here to this day.

In the eastern part of the park, the IMI (Israel Military Industries) Nof Yam factory was established in the 1950s. The factory produced explosives until 2000, when it was moved out of these buildings, but in statutory terms the area still belongs to IMI. The factory stands on the remains of the city, taking up about two thirds of the area of the fortified city, and extensive areas in which there are archaeological remains from the Byzantine period.

Archaeology

Archaeological research identifying the remains with Apollonia began back in the 19th century, when there was an archaeological survey of the land of Israel. The city of Arsuf is mentioned in the writings of Victor Guérin, a French geographer who travelled the country and described its ancient landscapes. At the beginning of the 20th century, the British P.E.F. survey association surveyed and mapped the city. This map described a city surrounded by a wall, with a fortress at its north-western edge, and a man-made harbor at its feet. During the 1950s, mainly small-scale excavations were carried out because of construction of the IMI factory, which still stands in part in the area of the site. As of 1977, excavation delegations from Tel Aviv University have carried out excavations at the site.

In the first excavations the late Prof. Israel Roll, the head of the first delegation, uncovered the remains of the market street from the Early Arab period, as well as remains of Crusader and even earlier buildings. In 1996, the excavation team carried out a sounding in the area of the IMI factory, in which they found the city gate, the remains of the foundations of the church, and a burial site to the east of the city. Since 1998, excavations have focused on the western part of the city, and have revealed the impressive fortress, the Crusader moat and the city's southern wall, the Roman villa and the Samaritan winepress, with a unique Greek inscription. In recent years, the Apollonia delegation headed by Prof. Oren Tal has been excavating throughout the city, in collaboration with overseas universities, in order to investigate the spread of the city and its maritime connections. 

Fauna

In the area of the park there are many wild animals, taking advantage of the open spaces on the clifftop near the sea. Mongooses  (Herpestes), gazelles (Antilopinae), porcupines (Hystrix), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), white bellied hedgehogs (Erinaceus concolor), Greek tortoises (Testudo graeca), and star lizards (Stellagama stellio) have been seen here. The birds observed here include the Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus), bee eaters (Meropidae), hooded crows (Corvus cornix), Eurasian stone curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), hoopoes (Upupa epops), partridges (Alectoris), and European stonechats (Saxicola rubicola). The common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) nests on the cliffs. Bird species that are not originally local are also found in the area, after having been brought here by man, and they have multiplied and are considered invasive species, among them the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) and the mynah starling (Sturnus).

 

Flora

The main factors affecting plant life here are the strong winds carrying sea spray, the friability of the kurkar, and the sandy ground cover. In the past, there was a forest of Mt Tabor oaks (Quercus ithaburensis) to the east of Apollonia. Destruction of the Sharon forests began in the Crusader period, when the wood was used for building and for burning, and continued until the end of the Ottoman period. Today there are no traces of forest left near Apollonia.

What can be seen here is kurkar ridge vegetation that is very resistant to sea spray, including: shrubby saltbush (Atriplex halimus), boxthorn (Lycium schweinfurthii), evening primrose (Oenothera drummondii), Limonium oleifolium, tamarisk (Tamarix), and Sporobolus pungens. Coastal vegetation also grows here: samphire (Crithmum maritimum), Mediterranean lavender (Limonium), broomrape (Orobanche), and hyacinth squill (Scilla hyacinthoides) (transplanted). Among the flora planted by man are eucalyptus, oak and carob woodlands; and invasive species include the golden wattle (Acacia saligna), heterotheca (Heterotheca subaxilaris), golden crownbeard (Verbesina encelioides), ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis), and camphor weed (Heterotheca subaxilaris).

 

Geology

Apollonia lies on a kurkar (calcareous sandstone) ridge, 30 m above sea level.

In fact, this is the second kurkar ridge in the area - the first one is in the sea.

This is a promontory ridge, and therefore rock-falls frequently occur here - a geomorphological phenomenon that requires attention and treatment. The soil here is sandy, a mixture of alluvial silt and migratory coastal plain dunes.

The third kurkar ridge is the ridge of Kfar Shemaryahu, Accadia and Herzliya B. This ridge is settled in the area of the park, but also contains archaeological finds, mainly burial caves in which the inhabitants of Apollonia were buried in Second Temple and Byzantine times.

How to get here:
At Kfar Shemaryahu junction, turn towards Herzliya Pituah (the brown sign will accompany you all the way to the entrance to the park). At the second traffic circle, turn right into Wingate St., and continue straight to the park.

 

Don't miss:
The view of the villa and the reconstruction from the lookout point 

 

Other attractions:
Picnic grounds in Hof Hasharon National Park.

There are picnic areas in the park, and fires may not be lit.

Opening hours

Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time

Summer:

Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm

Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm

 

Winter:

Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm

Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm

  

On the eve of New Year, the eve of the Day of Atonement, and Passover eve: 8 am – 1 pm

 Contact us

Telephone:  09-9550929

Facebook: Apollonia National Park

Reservations for guided tours and further information about activities and tours at the Yarkon and Coast Education Center – 03-9033130

To reserve tickets for shows – call *3639

Entrance fee

Adult – NIS 22, child – NIS 9

Group (over 30): Adult – NIS 19, child – NIS 8

Herzliya residents: NIS 11, Herzliya resident children -  NIS 5 

 Additional information

Click here for site pamphlat


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

     In the Apollonia National Park adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    • Parking
    • picnic area
    • restroom
    • circular trail from the parking to the archeological site\
    • the cliff trail is not wheelchair accessible.

    32.191167,34.808047
    Apollonia National Park