Tuesday, September 30, 2014 Tishri 6, 5775

Napoleon ... Kibbutznik?

January 5, 2012 By:
Deborah Rubin Fields, Jewish Exponent Feature
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She sells shells by the Dor coast

Could Napoleon have had a Napoleon Complex?

To answer this admittedly odd question, you'll have to visit the marine archaeology museum (known in Israel as the Glass Factory Museum) at Kibbutz Nahsholim, located between Caesarea and Haifa on the Mediterranean coast.

At the museum, you'll be surprised to find the French emperor's sword. Amazingly, underwater archaeologists discovered this antique. In fact, they found lots of other French military equipment, as apparently Napoleon and his soldiers ditched supplies in their 1799 military retreat from Palestine's coastal waters.

But returning for a moment to my original question: As a man of significant power and influence, Napoleon Bonaparte probably did not carry a standard "army issue" sword.

More than likely, he ordered a special sword cast to his particular measurements and his rank.

So when you look at Napoleon's sword, ask yourself what its length suggests about Napoleon's true size.

The maritime museum, however, is far from being just a museum of military relics.

Given that this is a museum dealing with the sea, it provides visitors with insights into the mysterious purple snail. As the museum's curators point out, the elusive purple snail had a connection to the ptil tekhelet (Numbers 15:38-9), the distinctive colored thread that was woven into the fringes of the tallit.

In the exhibits, the curators try to answer the following issues: From what marine animals might this color have been extracted? From what geographic area did this color come? What was the real color of this thread? How was this color obtained?

Also: Are there chemical reactions that affect the color of the thread? How were counterfeit colors detected? Using both mounted displays and film, the staff has formulated responses to these complicated questions.

Consciously or unconsciously, the museum gives vent to some irony: The facility, housed in Baron de Rothschild's short-lived (1891-1896) glass factory, displays both wondrously delicate authentic Roman glass and the remains of an early Christian mosaic church floor found at nearby Tel Dor.

And speaking of Tel Dor, this site is one of the ongoing archaeology projects in Israel. Since the 1980s, archaeologists have been digging every summer at this ancient port -- and there is no end in sight.

Archaeologists tell us that Dor was a natural harbor; it was first a Canaanite harbor town. Later, it was used by the Philistines and Phoenicians.

From the Book of Kings, we read that King Solomon made Dor one of his 12 governorates. This administrative function lasted throughout much of its Assyrian and Persian history.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Dor became an important port city. It had paved streets, temples, a theater, a multifaceted water and sewer system and a major walled fortress.

Dor probably only declined in importance after Herod completed Caesarea's port (25-13 BCE).

(The museum opens every day at 8:30 a.m. During the week, closing time is at 2 p.m.; on Fridays, the museum closes at 1 p.m. and on Saturdays at 3 p.m. For more information, visit: mizgaga.com; meanwhile, for Tel Dor info, go to: dor.huji.ac.il)

People love the Dor coast not just for its long history, but also for its wild beauty. Numerous caves with adjacent pools line the waterfront.

This area is known for its massive accumulation of sea shells. In fact, many of these shells help to form a peculiar kind of rock known as beach rock.

In the summer months, the water is vivid shades of blue. In season, lifeguards protect swimmers at the beach's southern end.

Further out to sea, people enjoy other water sports like kayaking, sailing, diving (sunken ships may still be seen in this area) and fishing. During a recent chol ha-mo'ed Sukkot trip, we were fortunate enough to see storks and other water fowl at Nahsholim's fish ponds.

Not everyone, however, wants to maintain the current appearance of this nature reserve. Some want to develop the seafront so that it includes restaurants, walkways, parking and additional beach vacation units.

The battle lines have been drawn between what one might loosely call the environmentalists on one side and the developers on the other side.

Putting aside this confrontation for the moment, more unusual area sights lie ahead. For instance, did you know some owls have to work for their keep?

If you continue traveling slightly north and east of the museum, you can learn more about these owls at the certified organic vineyards at Amphorae Winery, located by Moshav Kerem Maharal.

Instead of using potentially harmful pesticides on the crops, the growers settle owls in their fields. At night, the owls leave their bird houses to hunt the rodents that would otherwise damage the crops.

So here is a win/win/win situation: the owls (with their voracious appetites) have ready prey to hunt; the growers are able to make a living by justifiably claiming that they are selling a healthy crop; and the consumers who buy Amphorae get award-winning wine (but not certified kosher), untouched by chemicals.

If you are interested, see: www.amphorae-v.com.

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