ATHLIT (Heb. עַתְלִית), ancient port on the Mediterranean coast of Ereẓ Israel, 19 mi. (31 km.) south of Cape Carmel; now site of a Jewish village. It has been identified with Kartha, a city of Zebulun, mentioned in some Greek versions of Joshua 21:34. The road station Certha was still mentioned in its vicinity in 333 C.E. Excavations have shown that the site was inhabited in the Iron Age, probably by Phoenicians. A colony of Greek mercenaries with Egyptian and native wives settled at Athlit in Persian-Hellenistic times. In 1217 Crusader pilgrims built a castle there called the Château des Pélerins (Castrum Peregrinorum); it was held by Templar knights. This served through most of the Crusader period as a kind of immigrants' hostel and absorption and clearing station for newly arrived knights of the Cross who were sent from here to their posts. It successfully resisted an attack by Sultan Baybars in 1264–65. Evacuated in 1291, a few months later than Acre, the fall of Athlit marked the final end of the Crusades. The castle was built on a promontory, jutting out into a bay which served it as a harbor. It was defended by a flooded fosse, a low outer wall, and an inner wall with two towers, 98 ft. high, one of which is still standing. Inside are vaulted store rooms, the foundations of an octagonal church, a vaulted refectory, and other ruins. A town with its own wall, church, and fort in the southeastern corner was attached to the castle; it contained a bath, and large smithies and stables. Near Athlit was a rock-cut passage (Bāb al-Hawā; in Latin: Petra incisa or Destrictum; now Khirbat Duṣṭrī) near which Baldwin I was attacked and wounded in 1103. The ruins of Athlit served as a quarry for the construction of Acre.
The modern village (moshavah) was founded in 1903 by Baron Edmond de *Rothschild's administration. Most of its lands were bought from Arab fishermen who had built their shacks among the Crusader ruins. One of the country's pioneer industrial enterprises, a plant for extracting table salt from sea water led into large evaporation pans, is located at Athlit. In 1911 an agricultural station was founded there by Aaron *Aaronsohn. In World War I it became a center of *Nili, the clandestine pro-British intelligence organization. During the Mandatory period, the British set up a prison there, and in the 1940s a detention camp for "illegal" immigrants (see *Immigration, "illegal"). A *Haganah raid on the camp in 1945 freed 200 inmates. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 the camp became for a time a large immigrant reception center. In 1950 Athlit received municipal council status. In 1968 it had 2,110 inhabitants, increasing to 3,530 in the mid-1990s and 4,440 in 2002 on a municipal area of 5.5 sq. mi. (14 sq. km.).
In 1980 a bronze ram from a 2nd century B.C.E. warship was discovered about 200 yards off the coast of Athlit
(the "Athlit ram"), about 7.5 ft. long (2.26 m.) and weighing 1,000 lbs. (465 kg.). It is now on display at the Haifa Maritime Museum.
[Efraim Orni /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
Johns, in: QDAP, 1–6 (1932–38), excavation reports; S. Runciman, History of the Crusades (19652), index; Prawer, Ẓalbanim, index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.