The port town of Ashkelon has been known for its strategic importance throughout history, and indeed since pre-history. You read of Ashkelon as archaeologists excavate neolithic artifacts and stroll through time as its story unfolds. It’s a town that’s known the Canaanites, who established an international market there; by the sea people who came to trade and schlepped up the hill with their loaded donkeys, and by many who stopped at a roadside shrine on the way to pray to a silver calf god, for good fortune.
Battles between the Crusaders and the Fatimids. The Greeks came, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the British, and the Israelis. Whew – so much history.
On a lighter note, did you know that “scallion” and “shallot” are words derived from the Latin Ascalonia, which was how the Romans named the town? In the Ashkelon National Park today, there’s a vegetable plot where they’re growing shallots retrogressively, hoping to culture them back to the original vegetable once again.
But enough of history and shallots and all that heavy stuff. It’s time to play on the beach, and Ashkelon has some beautiful beaches. Today, and until the 23rd of this month (August 2019), the Bar Kochba beach boasts 15 enormous sculptures created from fairy tales and sand.
It’s Israel’s first sand sculpture festival. Artists devoted to the ephemeral art have arrived from Holland, Spain, Russia, the USA, the Czech Republic, and other countries, to make elaborate fairy tale images that the wind and the encroaching sea will eventually destroy.
Sand sculptures need a special, gritty sand whose grains hold together. Over 1000 tons of this sand were used to sculpt the figures of Snow White, Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians (which required 380 tons of sand and stands two meters high and nine meters long), Aladinn’s genie, and other characters beloved by children the world over.
The Ashkelon Sand Sculpture Festival takes place until August 23 on the Bar Kochba beach. Hours for viewing the sculptures are from 10:00-22:00. From 18:00, there are festive activities and shows on the promenade. Events are free.
Photo of Sleeping Beauty via Ashkelon municipality website.
Photos of Gulliver and Moana and Maui by Shlomo Ben El and Yonah Almog.