Khirbet Karta is an almost unknown archeological site



   
    July 2011          
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Visting the Khirbet Karta Ruins near Athlit

By David Prussman

I love going on tours in Israel. I go with my family or with friends and I never really know where I am going to end up. Last week I went with my wife to visit Athlit. Athlit was an important observation point used by the Nili spy team in transferring data to the British during World War I. I thought it would be interesting to visit and see the actual place that the Aaronsohn family conducted parleys with the British Intelligence that resulted in General Allenby's successful rout of the Turkish army from Israel.


The Athlit Watch Tower can be seen in the distance. It was the place were the Nili spies would make contact with the British who would sail by. The British would send a small boat in to shore in the middle of the night to give gold coins to support the Jewish effort and in return would get detailed plans of the Turkish movements.

However when I arrived there I was saddened to find that it was a closed military base – no visitors allowed. I could see it from the distance, but that was it. So we decided that a kilometer or so back there was something else of interest, the Athlit concentration camp. This was the internment camp that the British, who after liberating Palestine from the Turks, then turned against the Jews and forbid immigration. Those Jews who were trying to save their lives from Hitler's inferno in Europe tried to make it to the Land of Israel and were captured by the fun loving British who interned them in this camp until they could ship them out to some remote island, somewhere, but not Palestine.

However as we approached the entry to the camp/museum, there came six or seven tour buses loaded with young teenage and pre-teen children to see this place. Seeing that they charged what I considered an exorbitant price for entry combined with my fears of being overrun over by masses of children, I opted for option number three: to visit a unexplored ruin that lie between the Athlit internment camp and the Athlit watch tower.

This site happens to be some ancient ruins that lie in its original state. It is called Khirbet Karta and is almost unknown to tourists. It has not been fenced off by the antiquities department yet. I even found what seems like original traces of crusader presence there in rusty beer cans. Joking aside, it faces the Atlit watch tower and has a beautiful view of the sea. There is a small parking lot with a tiny sign announcing that this is an archeological site.

Khirbet Karta is the ruins of a Crusader fortress which probably was built to protect the coastal road. From its lofty vantage point you can see clearly the sea to the west, the coastal plain where the ancient road was and also see the beautiful Carmel mountain range to the east.

According to what I found out, the Crusaders built these ruins as a castle and called it Districtum (catwalk) and in French – Destroit The only bit of history I managed to dig up was that robbers attacked the Crusader king Baldwin I (also known as Baudouin I) who was considered the King of Jerusalem and his entourage in an ambush in about 1103. During this attack the king was momentarily taken captive but he escaped with his horse.

The name Khirbet is related to the Hebrew churvan, meaning desolation or a destroyed place. Karta which is taken from the Aramic and used today in modern Hebrew means city, which this place does not really seem to have been. It was a fortress and was abandoned on or about 1291 to the Muslim armies who have a long history of destroying all property that they can destroy.

I hope that you enjoy my pictures and that you take the initiative to visit.

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For more articles on Ancient Jewish History, see our Ancient Jewish History Archives

For more articles on Israel & Archaeology, see our Israel & Archaeology Archives

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from the July 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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