SHUNI PARK –The Roman archeological site Shuni Park, on the southern ridge of the Carmel Mountains on the main road between Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov, is regarded as one of the most beautiful Roman-period complexes in the world.
The site, renovated by Jewish National Fund in 1986, includes Roman pools and baths, an amphitheater, Achaim Sculpture Museum, Shuni Archaeological Museum, the Turkish Shuni Fortress, a camp and educational center and Jabotinsky Park and Forest, named after Zionist militia leader Zeev Jabotinsky.
Shuni is situated on lands that belonged to the tribe of Menashe, and is identified with the village of Shumi, which is mentioned in the Talmud. Toward the end of the Ottoman period, Effendi Salim Houri, a wealthy landowner from Haifa, purchased the area and thus extended his personal property from Shuni to the area currently known as Zichron Yaakov.
Just as each of the previous owners had done, Houri added buildings onto the earlier site. One building was a granary (shuni in Arabic). In 1914, the area was redeemed by Baron Edmond de Rothschild to be used as an agriculture school for Jewish farmers, who later established the nearby agricultural settlements of Binyamina and Givat Ada.
Shuni Park's Roman Amphitheater, which is 67 meters (about 220 feet) in diameter, has become a popular venue for rock, jazz, and classical acts. Excavations in the area revealed a mosaic-lined private swimming pool near the amphitheater. According to local lore, Jews were wary of visiting the pool as naked women swam in it from the Second through the Sixth centuries.
Archeologists believe rich residents of nearby Caesarea, including the Caesars themselves, frequented the pool. Storerooms, shops, a market-square, and a fountain were unearthed as well.
All that Jazz
Achiam Sculpture Museum, which is located inside a stunning structure erected in the courtyard of the Turkish Shuni Fortress, displays some 90 bronze and stone sculptures, mostly of biblical heroines. Sculptor Achiam Shoshani was born in Israel in 1919, but created his art pieces in Paris.
Shuni Park (Free Admission): Open Sunday-Thursday, Saturday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Museums and Fort Shuni: NIS 15 (about USD 3.40) for adults; NIS 10 (about USD 2.30) for children ages 6-14; special rates for groups, senior citizens, and students.
Museum opening hours: Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (open Friday through advanced arrangements only).
Of course, any historical escapade would not be complete without a cultural-culinary experience. The "Milestone" bistro-restaurant and jazz club located on Fort Shuni's top floor offers both delectable food and first-rate jazz performances every weekend (Thursday-Saturday, NIS 50-65, or about USD 11-15, a person).
The menu includes light meals such as country-style salad (NIS 30, or USD 7), shrimps in almond and tarragon sauce (NIS 95, or USD 22), spaghetti alio olio (NIS 54, or USD 12), and desserts.
Should you fancy a more intimate dining experience, you may try the smaller restaurant located on the rooftop of "Milestone" club. This restaurant seats 30 people and serves gourmet food at prices that range from NIS 100 (USD 23) for main courses, which include lamb ribs Madeira sauce. A full meal costs about NIS 250 (USD 57), and the price includes the stunning panoramic view and the crisp mountain air.
The secret quarry
After dinner you may wish to embark on a nice calorie-burning stroll along the mountainside. Make your way to the edge of the park's parking lot, enter the pedestrian gate, and you will set eyes on the spectacular and rather surreal view of the Carmel Mountain Range's tip looming over the "Even Vasid" (Stone and Lime) quarry, the largest and oldest quarry in the country.
Millions of shekels were invested in planting trees to restore the bare mountainous area near the quarry, and the 10-15 minute walk along the path that leads to the observation point is exhilarating.
A charming one kilometer (0.6 miles) promenade runs between Shuni Park and Binyamina winery, which is the fourth largest in the country and produces some two million barrels a year. The winery is situated inside a two-floor structure that served as a fragrance factory during Binyamina's early years.
During your visit to the winery, you may dine at the choice country-style meat restaurant (a full meal costs about NIS 75, or USD 17, a person), or at the dairy restaurant, which offers delicious breakfasts that include an assortment of cheeses, fresh vegetables, and dessert wine for about NIS 40, or USD 9, a person.
Both restaurants are kosher.
The Visitor Center offers guided tours of the winery (including wine-tasting), as well as wine evenings and several group seminars on baking, cooking, and cocktail preparation.
Binyamina winery: Guided tours: Price- NIS 15 (about USD 3.40) for adults, NIS 12 (about USD 2.70) for children.
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday- 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday- 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; closed on Saturday.
Telephone: 972-4-628-8042, or, 972-4-638-8643 (ext.2).