Updated: Apr 18, 2021
As we leave Migdal Tsedek Fortress behind, and move across the narrow Afek Pass, about 2 km wide, we reach the next fortress on our journey. The Afek Pass, this particular point on the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea) was historically swampy and created serious problems for those armies traveling from Egypt to Mesopotamia. On the other hand, it was great for the defenders and one can clearly see the advantage of controlling a fort on either side of the pass.
A little about the history of Tel Afek:
Earliest remains on this site date back to the Chalcolithic period (c. 4000 BCE) and the first walled city was established in the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BCE)
Tel Afek is first mentioned in the Egyptian Execration texts (c. 1900 BCE), when this was a fortified city with palaces. Later, it became a royal Canaanite City and is mentioned in the writings of Thutmoses III, who actually rode his chariot by on his way to attack Meggido!
The remnants of the local Egyptian governor’s palace have been partially excavated and are evidence of Egyptian rule.
The most important archeological finds from here are the clay tablets, inscribed in different languages, Sumerian, Akkadian, Canaanite. What a crossroads this place was!
Tel Afek is mentioned in the Bible as the place where the Philistines camped on their way to battle the Israelites, who camped on the other side of the swamp. The Israelites lost that battle.
The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, then the Umayyads and the Crusaders, all had a hand in creating Tel Afek’s history. And then the Ottomans built a large fortress as well. Oh, and the British built ‘pillbox’ guard towers here to protect the railroad bridges.
What I found most interesting was the close relationship Tel Afek’s historic names have had with the natural surroundings. Water!
The waters of the Yarkon River emerge here and slowly meander 28 km to the Mediterranean Sea, creating the historically important swamps mentioned above.
Afekum = river bed, comes from the Akkadian (Mesopotamia), the international language of those days. Afik = river bed in Hebrew as well.
Later, during the Hellenistic period, the city was named Pagae (Springs in Greek).
When the Ottomans arrived, they named the place Pinar Bashi (head of the springs in Turkish) and that name was eventually changed to Binar Bashi by the Arab speakers of the area. (Remember that Arabs have no /p/ and change it to /b/).
In more recent times, a town called Ras el Ayin (head of the springs, Arabic), sprung up and eventually the Jewish city of Rosh HaAyin (head of the springs, duh! in Hebrew) was built.
The only exception to this water theme was, of course, our dear friend Herod the Great, who went and built a Roman town on the ruins of the Greek Pagae, and named it Antipatris, in honor of his father. Go figure.
However, the Roman Antipatris gives us a few other interesting tidbit:
The Ottoman fortress sits on top of the cardo (the north/south main axis street of the Roman town) and one can walk the same path, touch the same paving stones, as Romans did 2000 years ago. Can you beat that?
Not only that, but the stores that lined the cardo and made up the Roman downtown shopping district are also visible and there is a lovely, little odeon (small, intimate theater) nearby.
Go shopping downtown, then to the theater… nice. Can’t you just see a pair of young lovers spending a romantic night out on the Antipatris?