Jabotinsky Shuni Park - Israel's Wine Region

Enveloped by vineyards and world-class wineries, Jabotinsky Park lies at the foot of the Ramat HaNadiv heights, at the crossroads between Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov.



Geographic location: Mt. Carmel, Krayot and surroundings
Water: Drinking fountain
Access: Easy (close to road)
Picnic
Memorial
Lookout
Marked path
Archeologic or Historic site

Identity Card



Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

 

Enveloped by vineyards and world-class wineries, Jabotinsky Park lies at the foot of the Ramat HaNadiv heights, at the crossroads between Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov. This area was a flourishing settlement in Roman times, as the discovery of the remains of a theatre and other archeological finds from the period attest. A large structure was built here during the Ottoman period, and between 1914 and 1947 it served as a base for Jewish pioneers and units of the National Military Organization in the Land of Israel (i.e., the Irgun). KKL-JNF has renovated the site and surrounded it with parkland, extensive lawns, picnic tables, parking facilities and a field center where young people from both Israel and abroad can take part in educational activities.

 

 Special sites in the park: Remains of a Roman theater and a Byzantine olive press.


  Facilities: Marked path, Archeological or Historic site.


 Additional sites in the area: Ramat HaNadiv (“Benefactor’s Heights” – the reference is to the philanthropy of Baron Edmond James Benjamin de Rothschild), Hurvat Aqav, the Zichron Yaakov Wine Trail, Nahal Taninim (“Crocodile River”) Nature Reserve, Mount Horshan, Nahal Mearot (“Cave River”) Nature Reserve, the Western Carmel (Ofer) Forests, Hadera River Park.


How to get there: The Shuni site is located at the junction between Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov, about a kilometer to the north of Binyamina.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Jabotinsky-Shuni Park was rehabilitated and developed thanks to
contributions from Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide.
 

About the Park

The area originally known as Shuni was a flourishing settlement in Roman times, as archeological finds from the period show.
 
KKL-JNF has renovated and strengthened historical sites in the park, including the Ottoman fortress, and has tended the archaeological remains at the Shuni site. As a result, the location has transformed the location into a charming natural beauty spot. Around the site, a park in memory of Zeev Jabotinsky has been created over an area of 160 dunam (approx 40 acres), complete with extensive lawns, picnic tables and parking areas. The KKL-JNF educational field center in the park hosts youngsters from both Israel and abroad and helps them strengthen their sense of identity with Israel and its landscape by studying the history of the site and exploring its environs.
 
A footpath from the park leads to Ein Tzur and Khirbet Umm Alaq in Ramat HaNadiv. The Shuni site itself is situated within the confines of the park, and the remains of the Roman theater can be visited there.

Entrance to the park is free of charge at all hours of the day.

Touring the Park


Roman theater. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

Upon entering the park, a visitor is greeted with extensive parkland complete with lawns, large shady trees, picnic tables and a variety of amenities. The park features a large caravanserai building (a structure surrounding a courtyard), which encircles the archaeological remains. The building also has an exhibition devoted to Zeev Jabotinsky, while another exhibit displays photographs that document Shuni’s past. Visitors are also invited to see a film about the site.
 
The remains of the Roman theater can be seen in the courtyard of the building, with the ruins of a Byzantine theater above them. The stage area (traditionally used by the chorus) has been preserved in its entirety – uniquely so, as this is not the case with the remains of other Roman theaters found in Israel. 

In the center of this space is a marble slab that would appear to have once served as an altar, dedicated perhaps to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. KKL-JNF has restored the theater’s seats, and the site is now used as a venue for a variety of events such as the annual wine festival.
 
The wooden bridge to the right of the structure takes the visitor over the top of an olive press from the Byzantine period. The steps ascend to an observation platform from which the circular structure of Shuni can be observed, together with the surrounding vineyards and the landscape of the Nahal Taninim valley. Next to the platform there is a restaurant.
 
To the east of the highway from Binyamina to Zichron Yaakov is a tunnel that once formed part of the aqueduct to Caesarea; it is well worth a visit.

History


Achiam sculpture museum. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

During the Biblical period of settlement the Shuni region formed part of the territory of the tribe of Menashe, and the site is presumed to have been the location of the village of Shumi, which is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud. During the Roman period (63 BCE – 324 CE), the site was famous for its springs, which provided an abundance of water, much of which was carried by aqueduct to the city of Caesarea. The Shuni region would appear to have been especially beautiful and agreeable, as residents of Caesarea and its environs were in the habit of gathering there for their joyous Water Celebrations.
 
Agricultural excavations at the site, conducted by KKL-JNF under Dr. Eli Shenhav in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority, revealed large pools once used for bathing, and the aqueducts that channeled water into them. Handsome mosaics decorated the floors of the pools, and an impressive Roman theater was also uncovered. These large pools were situated behind the stage, and the spectators could see them from their seats. A statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, was also found, and surgical instruments and gold coins were discovered in rooms at the site.  
 
In the Byzantine period, however, Shuni fell out of favor. The theater seats were destroyed and replaced by industrial equipment, including a large olive press, most of which can still be seen on display at the site. Later, in the 12th century CE, the site was fortified by the Crusaders.
 
The building that occupies the site today was built in the 18th century, during the period of Ottoman rule. Because its rooms make use of the arches that once supported the theater seats, the structure is shaped like a half-moon. A number of rooms were also built in the aisles, and a wall was constructed around the stage.
 


Entrance to the theater. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

Towards the end of the Ottoman period, Shuni and its environs were owned by one Salim Khouri, whose family was originally from Lebanon. After he bought the land he planted it with a large number of mulberry trees to provide food for silkworms. During this period, the site was also known as Khirbet Miamas, a name that may well preserve the memory of the Water Celebrations of the Roman era.

Jewish Settlement in Shuni

The Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), which was responsible for managing Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s land and colonies, acquired Shuni in 1912 and 1913 as part of the Umm al-Alaq property. The land was purchased in an attempt to create contiguous Jewish settlement from the Zichron Yaakov area to the property acquired for the colony of Binyamina.
 
In 1914, the Ottoman structure was settled by a group of young farmers’ sons from Zichron Yaakov who called themselves the Gidonites (HaGid‘onim), and they renamed the site Givat Binyamina in honor of Baron de Rothschild, one of whose middle names was Benjamin. The Gidonites provided the nucleus of the NILI underground movement led by Aaron Aaronson. Other settlers at Shuni included groups of laborers engaged in building the road from Zichron Yaakov to Shuni and Hadera. These attempts to settle the site were, however, cut short by the outbreak of the First World War.
 


Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

In 1919, Baron de Rothschild renewed his activities at Shuni, and for the next three years, members of the nucleus (gar‘in) of the Binyamina founders were trained there. The site was settled by a group of youngsters from well-established colonies and veterans of the Hebrew Brigades who busied themselves draining swamps and growing field crops, almonds and olives. After Binyamina was founded in 1922, Shuni continued to operate for a while longer as an agricultural training center.  In 1925, however, the farm was discontinued and Shuni was abandoned.
 
In 1939, at the time of the Tower and Stockade settlement operations, a group of Beitar members arrived in the area and established a settlement named Tel Tzur on the hill between Shuni and Ramat HaNadiv. This isolated spot turned out to be ideal for weapons practice and the training of Irgun units. A year later, the Tel Tzur settlers moved into the Shuni building, which was then also pressed into service as a military training site. These activities came to a halt on August 16th, 1945, when the British army raided Shuni and arrested twenty members of the Irgun, who later received lengthy prison sentences.
 
Shuni served as an operational base for a large number of military campaigns, including the attack on the Camp 80 ammunition store near Pardess Hanna and raids on British police stations. It was also the departure point for the Irgun’s most famous exploit – the Acco prison break of May 4th, 1947, in which members of the Irgun and Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) organizations were broken out of jail by their comrades.
 


Archeological museum. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

The Shuni site stood neglected for many years until, in 1986, at the behest of the National Council for the Conservation of Early Settlement Sites, KKL-JNF embarked upon a campaign to save the building. After it had been strengthened and restored with the help of the Shuni Association, it became a popular national site in the middle of a park dedicated to the memory of Zeev Jabotinsky.

In the special section of this well-cared-for park dedicated to the memory of the participants in the Acco prison break, the original headstones from the graves of the jail breakers can be seen; they were removed from the burial site when the Ministry of Defense replaced them with IDF headstones.