Glimpses of Israel - Aphek

There are several cities with the name Aphek, or Afek, that are mentioned in the Bible. Two of them were Canaanite cities defeated by Joshua, in the northern coastal part of the land, one was located near the Sea of Galilee on the highway to Damascus, and a fourth was in the Plain of Sharon.

It was this fourth site that was the scene of the terrible defeat of the armies of Israel by the Philistines: "Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek" (1 Samuel 4:1), when the Ark of God was taken captive, and thirty thousand Israelites were slain.

Aphek was already two thousand years old when this battle took place, but excavations at the site have found a city dating back to about three thousand BC.

Aphek's name was later changed to Antipatris by Herod the Great in honour of his father Antipater, and during New Testament times it was a Roman garrison on the road which linked their capital, Caesarea, with Jerusalem. It was here that the Roman soldiers brought Paul on the first stage of his final visit to Rome.

The ruins of an enormous Turkish fortress sit atop the ruins of the original fortress built by the Crusaders in the twelfth century. They also built Mirabel Castle, meaning beautiful view, and it dominated the road that was an important pass before the Yarkon River swamps were drained in the early days of the State.

The fortress also protected the water sources of the nearby Yarkon River. Ottoman rule over Israel began in the early sixteenth century, and apart from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and the fortress at Solomon's Pools in Jerusalem, Aphek is the only other significant reminder of their four hundred year reign in the Land.