Cesarea: A 'Glee' Style Hanukkah-Christmas Mashup!
Updated: Apr 22
I had recently finished watching, the ‘Glee’ series on TV with my daughter through the video on demand. We really enjoyed it and I was saying to her that if ‘Glee’ were to come to Israel for a performance, I’d take her to it, when I found out I was two years late since it ended in 2015. Anyway, my mind had already started racing forward, thinking about what I would include in a homage post and that I would take them to Cesarea to sing at the Roman Theater since the ancient acoustics are incredible and that it would be a major experience for them.
Anyway, if they ever do a comeback, they can use this post as an idea for a Hanukkah-Christmas Mashup Episode. For those who don’t know what a ‘Mashup’ is, it’s when you sing two songs switching back and forth from one to another. The smoother the transition, the better the mashup. ‘Glee’ were amazing at it.
Why is Cesarea suitable for a Hanukkah-Christmas Mashup? Mainly because there are a lot of fun facts loosely related to both, which you’ll read about in this post.
Trip Itinerary Options:
Cesarea Harbor National Park
Theater at Cesarea National Park
Aquaduct of Cesarea
Sea sports activities
Cesarea Antiquity/Maritima Museum
The Grand Finale (It’s a Glee thing! You don’t have to do it).
Just one word, before you go. You can either buy a ticket to the Cesarea Harbor alone where all restaurants and galleries are excluding the Theater, Hippodrome, Visitor Center films etc. or you can buy a combination ticket for all. Luckily for you, I chose the latter 😊.
Cesarea Harbor National Park
Cesarea started out as a small Phoenician naval station founded by Straton of Sidon. It was later expanded in 103 BCE by Alexander Jannaeus from the Hasmonean Kingdom.
As the Hasmonean Kingdom was founded following the Maccabean (synonymous to Hasmonean) revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BCE, this is the first connection to Hannukah. The Hasmonean empire ended with Miriam (Mariamne I) the Hasmonean who married Herod the Great and was killed by him.
Herod the Great expanded the small naval town into a big city with a port between 22-10 BCE. Herod cultivated his friendship with his Roman Patron Ceasar Augustus leading to the great architechtural gems that you will see during your visit.
The port that Herod built in order to make the city into a leading commercial metropolis has sunk due to several earthquakes, but during the visit there are two films. One explains more about the great architectural techniques used to build the port in ancient times and a second film explains the overall history Cesarea and its rulers. There is also a nice study room with holograms of 12 characters that tell their story in response to your button presses and a display of findings of gold dinars with Arabic inscriptions from a shipwreck that was found while researching the place.
One of the characters who visited Cesarea is St. Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, a famous crusader who found the location of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (see my previous post).
Near the visitors center, where the films are, you will also see there are remains of a citadel and moat, built by King Louis IX during his crusade in 1250. I’m counting both crusaders as part of the Christmas side of the mashup theme.
Going back to the national park, you will also see the remains of a huge Roman bathhouse with several rooms for water of varying temperatures (caldarium, tepidarium and caldarium).
You will see the hippodrome or ‘circus’ as the Romans called it, that served as an arena for horse races, chariot races, hunting games, gladiator combat and athletic events in general.
You will walk through the ancient city paths towards Herod’s palace of which there are few remains, but two that are of interest to the Christmas part of the mashup theme. First, is a room which is thought to be the location of the Apostle Paul ‘place of hearing’ in 58 A.D. He was accused of causing a riot and in his hearing requested to be sent to Rome to ‘appeal unto Ceasar’ (Acts of Apostles 25: 11-12 and 23). He was tried and sent to Rome from Cesarea and a few years later executed. The second finding is an inscription of Pontius Pilatus, also from the 1st century A.D., the prefect of Rome who presided over the trial of Jesus of Nazareth that sentenced him to crucifixion.
Last, but not least, while walking about, you will see the beautiful artists galleries, some of which are built within the ancient Roman market buildings. Since my visit was on the first day of Hanukkah, I’ve created a nice mashup collage from all the galleries.
The remainder of the market and temple location are now undergoing massive reconstruction, which are expected to be complete within a year and a half so it will only get better.
Theater at Cesarea National Park
You can enter the theater directly since it has a separate entrance and walk toward the port or you can get to it by walking from the port as I did. In any case, you’re in for a treat. The Roman theater has remained intact and holds live concerts till this day. When I was there, a nice group of Japanese tourists sang together. Their lead singer got up on stage and the rest joined in the chorus. It was lovely, I filmed it, but after some thought, haven’t included it out of respect for their privacy since I didn’t get their permission. I’m mentioning it because it is a lovely idea and something you should try out if you’re there. I’m including a link to Glee’s mashup ‘Hand in my Pocket/I Feel the Earth Move’ instead.
Aquaducts of Cesarea
The aquaducts are a short drive north of the port entrance. There are three aquaducts, two from the north, running in parallel and one from the south. Of the two parallel, the one built by Herod is prettier since it used the Roman technique of building the waterway over a series of arches called ‘arcadia’. It is also longer, running 17 km bringing fresh flowing water all the way from Shuni by the Carmel mountain range. The second northern aquaduct was built in the 4th century and is 5 km long bringing water from the Taninim Stream. The southern aquaduct brought water from ‘Nahal Hadera’, but is not part of the locations of the trip.
The aquaducts are by the beach so you can end your day there with a nice swim and then go to eat.
Sea Sports Activities
I’m adding this in case you seen Cesarea, but want to see the underwater findings as well. If you’re looking for sea sports, you can contact the ‘Old Cesarea Diving Center’ or ‘Freegull Sea Sports’.
Cesarea Antiquity or Maritima Museum
The museum is located just south of Cesarea in Kibbutz Sdot Yam. It contains architectural findings from Cesarea and will complete the picture, if needed.
The Grand Finale
Just so you know, the slushy photo was taken at Herzeliya’s Acadia Beach the following day due to timing issues.
There are some lovely restaurants in the National Park of Cesarea, most of them with beach views. You can check them in advance: ‘Helena’, ‘Port Café’, ‘Limani Bistro’, ‘Mariposa’, ‘Crusaders Restaurant', ‘Aresto’ , ‘La Vita Bella’ and ‘Beach Bar’.
I spent a perfect day in Cesarea and hope you enjoy it as well.
This is what it looks like on the map:
The entrance to the theater is not located separately on google maps, but is near where ‘Sdot Yam’ is written.
I just want to end this by wishing you a Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! Peace and Goodwill to all! Please feel free to comment and wish back to everyone.
If you like archeology, you may be interested in reading my friend's post on Greece.
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