Glimpses of Israel - The Mediterranean Sea

by Joseph Hunting

The entire length of Israel's western shoreline is washed by the Mediterranean Sea. In the south about ten kilometres of coastline at Eilat give Israel access to the Red Sea and the great trade routes to the Far East. Israel's eastern border runs along the Great Rift Valley with its two inland lakes so vastly different in content, yet both fed by the Jordan -- the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.

In Bible times the Mediterranean Sea was known as the Great Sea and was navigated from the earliest days of mankind's recorded history by Egyptians in frail craft made of papyrus reeds. Later we read of Solomon's navy which took three years to make the round trip to India and returned laden with apes, peacocks and gold etc.

Joppa (now Jaffa and part of Tel Aviv) was once one of the great trading ports, as were Akko (or Acre) and Tyre and Sidon further north. In the centuries following the exploits of Solomon's sailors the Phoenicians opened up trade routes with Crete and far-away Spain. Then the fleets of Alexander the Great conquered the then-known world of the nations bordering the Mediterranean. And Rome used its waters to transport the Legions to Egypt, Judaea, Syria and the neighboring countries as far afield as Britain.

Among the many drama enacted on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea none were more poignant than those on the small crowded vessels that tried so desperately to slip past the British blockade during the closing years of the Mandate. The face of Israel's coastline has changed dramatically since those days. New towns, cities and settlements have sprung up, and as in Solomon's time Israeli ships are again to be found in ports encircling the globe.