The Via Maris
The Via Maris (translated to “Way of the Sea,” a name given to it by the Romans) was a coastal path and trade route which connected civilizations. Its beaten dirt roads, dating back to the Bronze Age (3000 BCE - 1200 BCE), carried the most beautiful wares—and groundbreaking ideas—of the ancient ages.
The Via Maris ran from Damascus to Heliopolis (near modern-day Cairo), stopping by the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea along the way. While not as long as other trade routes of its time, the Via Maris’s centrally located path through the desert and sea alike linked Egypt, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and other early regions of the Middle East. Crucially, branches of the Via Maris also intersected with the major trade routes of its era including the Silk Road, the Indus Valley and beyond.
As native settlers along its route, Jews used the Via Maris as their home base for exploring the ancient world. Beginning a legacy of Jewish commerce that would last for centuries to come, these merchants traded Israeli oil, fish, dairy, and grains for both everyday staples and luxuries like spices, jewels and ceramics. The foreign goods they brought home informed new tastes and customs that shaped what we consider to be “Jewish culture” today—from the couscous in your Shabbat meal to the metals in your chanukiah.