|Fig tree at entrance to tunnel
The aqueducts of Caesaria
are a well-known site to any
traveler to the region from Roman times to the present.
The aqueducts, built by the Romans, channeled their fresh water. But where
did it come from?
In the Alona Park, in the hills beyond Caesaria, there is a fig tree
in an otherwise dry area. For years, the locals believed that this strong
and leafy fig tree was fed by waters from an undergrond spring. Supposedly
discovered by a local farmer, the spring came to be
named Ein (Hebrew for “spring”) Ami. It was only in 1967, that local farmers
stumbled upon a vast underground network of tunnels. The 23-km long tunnel
syustem was in fact part of a network of canals, tunnels, clay pipes and
aqueducts built by the Romans to deliver water to the port of Caesarea.
The Roman engineers overcame
the formidable task of water delivery through diffcult terrain, with terrain
heights varying from 2.40 m to 1.7 m at its lowest point.
Acknowledging the difficulty in creating conduits for water, Roman engineer
Vetrubis, expressed it thus:
is crucial for the existence of life, for our pleasure, and daily use. Water
can be reached more easily when the springs flow above ground. If they do
not, openings must be carved and shafts must be dug. When a shaft touches the water
level, several shafts should be dug around it. All the shafts should then
be connected by underwater canals to a single point.”
And that is exactly what
he, and his co-workers, did.
The water delivery system they built operated in the area during the Roman
and Byzantine times. With foresight, the system was designed to serve a growing
population, both for agriculture and drinking.
Following a long period of restoration, a 280 meter stretch of tunnel –
out of a total 6 km — was restored.
During the restoration period, an original Roman filter, a rare find, was
uncovered – and can be seen today.
Today, rain water continues to feed the tunnels, as in ancient times. Modern-day
pumps, however, have been installed and bring the water to the national water
Text and photos
by Judith Isaacson.