by Yael Adar
While modern-day Atlit was founded in 1903, its roots go back many centuries. This small town located 10 kilometers south of Haifa off Road # 2, is the location of a former illegal immigrant detention camp dating back to WW II.
The source of the name Atlit is not known, although one theory believes it to be derived from the name Atalya, daughter of King Ahab (however, many other theories exit as well). Atlit was occupied from the late Bronze era to the Hellenistic period.
According to one assertion the Phoenicians established a colony in Atlit in the 8th century BCE and built its well planned port. The Crusaders' last stronghold in the Holy Land, Chateau Pelerin is located on the coast of Atlit, just north of the modern settlement. In fact, it was during the Crusader era that Atlit flourished. At the beginning of the 12th century two castles were built by the Templar Knights (to protect the pilgrims on their way from Acre to Jerusalem) one was at Atlit, the other at Caesarea.
In 1250, King Louis IX of France spent time in the castle of Atlit and fortified its walls; and one of his sons was born there. In 1256, the Mamelukes, attacked the city of Atlit, whose residents fled to the castle. The castle walls held. In 1283 an armistice was signed between the Crusaders and the Mamelukes. The agreement allowed the Crusaders to keep the city of Atlit and the castle, in return for half the estate's revenue. The castle of Atlit was not attacked, but after the fall of Acre, its defenders fled secretly (to Cyprus), on the night of August 14, 1291. The stronghold's downfall would come six weeks later, at the hands of the Mamelukes.
During the Ottoman era, Atlit provided a source of good building materials and the governors of Haifa, Acre and Beirut used the hewn stone of Atlit in building their respective cities. Baron Edmond de Rothschild purchased the area of Atlit in 1903 and the new settlement's first inhabitants consisted of five families from Zichron Ya'acov. Atlit did not prosper in those early years. It took another three years for six more families to join the initial five and by 1922 the settlement still only had 12 houses. However, 1922 was a turning point in the settlement's history — it was the year a new salt factory was established by a new immigrant from Russia. Today the factory produces 25 tons of salt a year.
One of the great marine archaeological finds, the Ram of Atlit, was discovered off the coast of Atlit.
Source: Gems in Israel