The best place to begin your visit to the vibrant port city of Ashdod is at Givat Yonah, the towering hill, the traditional site of the tomb of the sea-faring Jonah the prophet, who was swallowed by a whale. A wonderful overview of Ashdod awaits you here: You’ll see Israel’s busiest cargo port, where over 100,000 tourists also enter and leave the country.
Givat Yonah is also an archaeological mound, which makes it the best place to appreciate how this city, which started out in the Bible as a Philistine town, has expanded––thanks to its port, industries and its energetic new immigrant community––to a showcase city of over 200,000. The wide boulevards that cross its new neighborhoods, with their gleaming white Mediterranean-style apartment houses and numerous parks, show the meticulous planning that has made Ashdod an inviting place to live and to visit.
As you tour the city, look for the Blue Route tourist signs, which explain various points of interest. In northwestern Ashdod you can take a relaxing walk along the Lachish Stream promenade where a free zoo features zebras, rare Berber sheep, deer, ostriches and other animals. Try to time your stroll to end with a romantic sunset where the stream meets the sea.
In the southeastern part of town is "Ad Halom" Park: The "Ad Halom" (“thus far”) Bridge, dating back to Turkish times, is the furthest point north the Egyptian army reached during the War of Independence. A war memorial and lookout tell the story, and following the 1977 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Israel invited Egypt to build the obelisk-shaped memorial you’ll see here.
Ashdod has many bathing beaches, including the Marina Beach with gender-separate facilities for Orthodox bathers. At the Keshatot (arches) Beach, you’ll find a number of eateries popular with the locals. This is one place where you can get a feel for the varied local population––at each table you pass diners seem to be speaking a different language!
For art lovers, there’s the new glass-roofed “winged” Ashdod Art Museum. And don’t miss the Corinne Maman Museum, with its unique interior design echoing the city’s ancient history (the focus of the museum), along with changing exhibits of Israeli artists.
Spend part of a morning or afternoon at Ashdod while touring the region, whose attractions include Beit Govrin National Park, British Park, Tel Lachish, Tel Tzfit and Ashkelon National Park.