Glimpses of Israel - Aphek

by Joseph Hunting

It was on a hot spring morning that we clambered over rough ground leading up to a mass of crumbling ruins that had once given shelter to such illustrious Hebrews as Joshua, Saul, King David, the Apostle Paul, and a thousand years ago also rang to the battle shouts of the Crusaders and Saracens.

Aphek is strategically situated between the fertile lowlands, called the Shephilah, and the plain of Sharon. 3,500 years ago Joshua stormed these heights when he defeated the 31 kings who rules the land of Canaan.

Later, during the time of Samuel, the Philistines gathered their armies at Aphek and defeated the Israelites. In their confusion and dismay the elders of Israel said, "Wherefore has the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines? Let us fetch the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies ... And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel 30,000 footmen. And the Ark of God was taken" (I Samuel 4).

In Roman times the name was changed to Antipatris, and it was to this fortress that the Roman soldiers brought the Apostle Paul on the first stage of his journey to Rome.

Today nothing more than crumbling ruins mark the town where so much of Israel's history unfolded. It was here David was turned back by king Achish from following the Philistines into the battle that resulted in the death of Saul and Jonathan.