Ancient Spa

Ancient Spa
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
large area.

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
that the

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
vineyards today.

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.
It was


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.

Find the secret acoustical spot and
see how your voice carries loud and clear.

Where: Between Binyamina
and Zikhron Yaakov on Route 652.

Tel: 04-638-9730

Open daily from 9:00 – 16:00.

No admission to the park. Fee to enter Etzel Museum.

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