|Spas and pools date back to ancient
times. We found
evidence of this when we visited Shuni Park, just outside of Binyamina.
Home to the pre-State Etzel headquarters, Shuni is situated on lands
belonging to the tribe of Menashe and is identified with the village of
Shumi, mentioned in the Talmud. Throughout history, Shuni was
used and re-configured to meet the needs of the occupying power. The impressive
ampitheater with rows
of seating, and the secret acoustical spot in the choral pit, was part of
a Roman pool and spa. Separated by stone columns, the pool extends over a
Our guide, Maya who is serving in the IDF as a guide for the Jewish
National Fund which funds the reconstruction of Shuni Park — explained
|Inscription in the mosaic thanking
the donors of the pool
two-storey high ampitheater
and adjacent pool/spa were used by wealthy Romans who lived in nearby Caesarea,
particularly during the Maiumas festival in the month of May.
Pagan rites, fertility ceremonies, and orgies were major components of
these month-long festivities.
Affronted by Roman paganism, the Byzantines cleaned up the area. They
tore down the sacrificial platform and built an olive press on that spot.
They further eliminated the stone columns that led to the pool/spa area
and paved a road over it.
When the Ottomans came to power, Effendi Salim Houri, a
statues prior to the gala opening
wealthy Turk who lived
in Haifa, bought the area, thus
extending his personal property from Shuni to the area now known as
Yaakov, Carmel mountains, Israel. As each of the previous owners had done, he too added buildings
the earlier site. One building was a granary – hence the name Shuni, or
granary in Arabic.
In 1914 the area was redeemed by Baron Edouard de Rothschild to be used
as a training area for Jewish farmers. They later established the nearby
agricultural settlements of Zikhron Yaakov, Binyamina, and Tel Zur, all prime
In the 1940s the military commander school of Etzel was housed in Shuni.
The on-site museum is a homage to this pre-Israel Defense Forces headquarters.
from this compound, in
1947, that fighters left for Acre prison to free their jailed comrades and
save them from the gallows.
The park was subsequently abandoned and only in 1985, after extensive
renovation by JNF, re-opened. Slowly over the last 20 years, different parts
have become operational. With the help of volunteers from abroad, as well
as Israeli schoolchildren, the area has been dug up to reveal a rich history.
On the day we visited, a crew was busy preparing the ancient Roman spa
as the site of a new sculpture garden and museum. French sculptor, Ahiam
Shoshany, donated almost
100 wood, stone, basalt and bronze statues, which now stand on the original
mosaic floors — a fantastic mix of the ancient and modern. Inscribed
in one of the Roman mosaics is a thank you to the donors of the pool!
Text and photos by Judith Isaacson.