Erosion Threatens Israel's Coastline, Historic City

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CAESAREA, Israel - Israel is known for its historical relics, but erosion is threatening some of those ancient treasures along the Israeli coastline. Coastal erosion can be devastating in many ways. It can affect homes, nature and even an entire way of life.

More than 2,000 years ago, Herod the Great built the most sophisticated port in the eastern Mediterranean and a grand city at Caesarea.

The area made its mark in biblical history. Pontius Pilate set out from Caesarea to Jerusalem where he would condemn Jesus to die on the cross. It is where Peter preached to the Gentiles and also where the apostle Paul was imprisoned for two years.

An artificially constructed harbor was four times its current size and an estimated 12,000 residents lived in the city. Destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout history, it's now in danger from modern man.

"It can be one year, five years or ten years but for sure they will not stay for a long time," said Ze'ev Margalit, architect and director of conservation and development for Israel's Nature and Parks Authority.

Margalit said the nearby power plant is to blame. It prevents Nile River sand from reaching the port. The absence of that natural barrier makes the port vulnerable to more powerful waves.

"So if there is a natural cause, we see the deterioration of the natural port but if it's an ancient city the problem is irreversible," he added.

The current boardwalk is built on a foundation that dates back to the crusades of the 13th century.

One restaurant recently collapsed into the water while other buildings show cracks as well as other signs of erosion.

Today, the Mediterranean Sea is calm. However, experts and the locals are concerned that once the usual winter storms begin, bringing rough seas and high waves, more of the waterfront could collapse.

The erosion is clearly seen outside the famous Hippodrome, once the site of Roman chariot races. Where once was once was a sandy walkway, waves of water now lap against its foundations.

The Israeli government plans to invest more than $1 million for short-term repairs. However, another $15 million will be needed for a long-term solution to the problem.

An estimated 1 million people visit the park, restaurants and amphitheatre every year.

Shmaya Ben-David, director of the National Park of Caesarea, said despite the concern over the erosion, the park is still safe for visitors.

"We are just making sure that Caesarea it's going to be here, not for us but for the next generation also," he said.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Reporter

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