5 Old Ports in Israel with Significant Histories

February 14th 2019


From the Bronze Age to the modern day, the Mediterranean Sea has played a significant part in the story of Israel. It’s no wonder therefore that several old ports and harbors can be found right along the nation’s coastline, each one with its own unique and fascinating history.

Biblical narratives tell us of ancient peoples who sailed and fished the seas. Battles took place over coastal citadels while the port cities and harbors became flourishing centers of commerce, migrations, and stop-off points on the way to Jerusalem. And in the modern age, Israel’s ports became the first sight Jewish refugees would have of their new and ancient homeland.

With such significance behind each port in Israel, here are 5 we really think you should visit:

Old Jaffa Port

The oldest port in Israel is Jaffa Port. In fact, it’s considered one of the oldest ports in the world. It’s said to be the place from which the biblical prophet Jonah set sail prior to his time spent in the belly of a whale. For millennia, Jaffa port has been the main sea entry point to the Land of Israel, welcoming traders, pilgrims, and migrants.

While its influence has decreased in modern times, Jaffa remains an active port. It’s also a popular cultural center featuring restaurants, cafes, artist’s workshops, galleries, and markets.

Old Tel Aviv Port

While nowhere near as old as Jaffa Port, the old Tel Aviv port has no less a significant history. It was speedily developed after the Arab revolt (1936-39) made Jaffa difficult to use. While it only remained operational as a civilian port for a couple of years, it would become hugely important as a weapons and equipment supply route prior to, and during, the War of Independence.

By the 1960s, the port had fallen into disrepair as Ashdod became Israel’s main sea port. However, at the beginning of the 21st Century, the area was renovated. Nowadays it’s a popular cultural hotspot with restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and a thriving nightlife scene.

Caesarea Harbor

Built by Herod the Great (c. 22–10 BCE), the city and harbor of Caesarea today provide an amazing insight into the ancient world. In its time it was a city nearly as resplendent as Jerusalem and contained a deep-sea harbor which made it the main entry point into the Holy Land from the Mediterranean.

The harbor ruins have been restored and offer visitors a glimpse into the past, as do the well-preserved remains of aqueducts, a fortress, and a magnificent amphitheater. Multimedia presentations and exhibits detail the history of what was once a thriving port city.

Akko Port

The ancient port city of Akko (also known as Acco or Acre) is located a few miles north of Haifa and dates back 4,000 years. The UNESCO World Heritage Site features a stunning harbor which are the remains of what was once, in its heyday, the main port of the region. The city itself is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

The harbor and sea walls have been modified throughout the centuries by many different peoples and cultures, as has the city. There are many fascinating archeological and architectural sights to behold including Ottoman inns, Crusader citadel walls, Arab gates, and so much more.

Haifa Port

Although the youngest of all the ports mentioned in this article, the history of Haifa port has monumental significance to Israel and the Jewish people. Built in 1948, the seaport became the primary point of entry to hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants, Holocaust survivors, and refugees fleeing Arab persecution.

It was Theodor Herzl himself who saw the port potential the ancient bay of Haifa provided. When Akko became unusable, Haifa took over and has since become one of Israel’s main ports. You can see the full size and scope of Haifa Port from the beautiful slopes of the Bahai Gardens and learn more about the local naval history at the city’s National Maritime Museum.