Nostalgia Sunday – Herzl’s 150th

Tel Aviv is celebrating Theodor Herzl’s 150th birthday tonight on, you guessed it, Herzl Street. Blogger Tel Aviv Rooftop reports that “there’s not much celebrating going on,” aside from a few young men dressed as the founder of the Zionist movement and handing out flyers. He’s also posted some nice background information and some truly excellent pictures that illustrate how Herzl’s visage continues to inspire artists, including graffiti artists.

Back in the day, art nouveau artist Ephraim Moses Lilien was a key figure in the creation of Herzl iconography. Lilien may be best known for his photograph of Herzl looking out over the balcony, and he often portrayed Herzl as a modern-day Moses delivering his people to the Promised Land.

These days, someone has been running around the city for months now, spray-painting and stenciling the following message under Herzl’s face, “lo rotsim, lo tsarikh”, (If you don’t want it you don’t have to have it). Much is lost in translation but take it from me, it’s a very witty if negative restatement of both Herzl’s famous statement, “If you will it, it is no dream,” and something that Israeli parents tell their insolent little children.

Herzl is everywhere you look. Why, only a few weeks ago, we purchased a shirt at the Tel Aviv T-Market emblazoned with a Rastafarian version of Herzl and the word, “Uganda!”, in reference to Herzl’s 1903 proposal that the British colony in Africa serve as a temporary refuge for the Jews of Russia.

He’s up on a water tower on the side of the highway as you enter the Herzliya municipal boundaries. Herzliya, of course, is named for him and the city’s seal features seven golden stars, Herzl’s proposed flag for the Jewish State: “the seven golden hours of our working day.” And no, his vision did not include the Seven Stars mall.

Or did it? After all, Herzl envisioned a modern industrialized Jewish state where factories would produce goods round-the-clock,a state that would “make it possible for our unfortunate people to live a life of industry for it is by steady work alone that we hope for our physical and moral rehabilitation.”

He also envisioned a pluralistic society, “founded on the ideas which are a common product of all civilized nations… It would be immoral if we would exclude anyone, whatever his origin, his descent, or his religion, from participating in our achievements. For we stand on the shoulders of other civilized peoples. … What we own we owe to the preparatory work of other peoples. Therefore, we have to repay our debt. There is only one way to do it, the highest tolerance. Our motto must therefore be, now and ever: ‘Man, you are my brother.’”

It’s worth bearing in mind that in addition to his careers as a playwright, journalist and latecomer visionary politician, Herzl was a Utopian novelist. And the name of his book, Altneuland, Old New Land, was translated in Hebrew to “Tel Aviv”, which became the name of the first modern Hebrew city.

One good place to learn about the man that got it all started is the Herzl Museum in Jerusalem, a modern educational center that uses audio-visual and online technology to convey Herzl’s story and vision in a meaningful way. The website includes a timeline of events, a photo gallery and a collection of postcards featuring Herzl’s image.

A Crusader Herzliya

April 5, 2010 - 9:45 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Environment, General, History and Culture, Travel 

It’s not something you’d expect to see near the pricey community of Herzliya Pituach with its leafy avenues and gated palatial homes. And it’s certainly not something you’d look for.

But there it is, nonetheless, as you drive past the swimming pools and landscaped gardens. Just follow the signs for the Apollonia National Park, and just a couple hundred yards away from the modern splendor is a bona fide cliff-top national park surrounding a ruined Crusader city which features its on fortress.

The Crusader fortress was built between 1241 and 1265, and is impressive testimony to the strength of the city in its day. Phoenicians established the first settlement in the sixth century and people settled in this area 2,500 years ago.

The Phoenicians were considered to be knowledgeable in maritime technology and astronomy, which enabled them to trade various commodities from far away places. Like at Dor (further up the coast), the local inhabitants used the sea to make Tyrian purple, a precious dye used by royalty. It was extracted from mollusks, which were abundant along the coast.

The Phoenicians named the settlement along the coastal plain Arshof, (for Resheph, their War and Thunder god). In the Hellenistic period the city was re-named Apollonia, as the Greeks identified Resheph with Apollo. During the Roman era (First – Third centuries BC) the settlement developed into a real city and reached its height during the Byzantine era. In the Fifth and Sixth centuries the city was named Sozousa and served as the Episcopal See of Palaestina prima.

In 640 CE the Muslims gained control of the city and erected an outer wall around a portion of the city. The city’s size decreased significantly, from 70acres/280 dunam to 22.5 acres/90 dunam. By 1099, the Crusaders had conquered Jerusalem and deployed to Arsuf, but failed to capture it.

Baldwin I succeeded in conquering the city, in the spring of 1101 – with the Genoese fleet. Once again the city’s name was changed, this time Arsour and a large castle was built in the northern section of the city. In 1265 the Mamluk sultan Baybars, conquered the city and made the Crusaders raze the city and the fort, which lay in ruins until the excavations began in 1996.

According to the Park web site, in 2003, World Monuments Watch declared Apollonia endangered by development, one of 100 such sites around the world so-named in that year, including the Great Wall of China and the city of Batsra in Syria.

The easy walk around the park (suitable for wheelchairs and strollers) contains breathtaking clifftop views of the Mediterranean, with the Herzliya Marina to the south and the port town of Caesarea to the north.

Another highlight is the Roman villa, visible from the lookout point, where a sign reveals a three-dimensional plan of the building. But the heart of the visit is the fortress, which contains a number of rooms, a collection of authentic ballistae balls, and is surrounded by a wide moat.

While not a full day activity, a visit to the Apollonia National Park is a riveting diversion on the way to the beach, and a sharp reminder to the close by neighbors of how fleeting property and posessions can be.


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