by Yael Adar
In 1190, Richard the Lion Heart's Crusade was delayed by four weeks, when he fell ill due to Malaria, contracted at Ein Afek. Located just three kilometers east of Acre, Ein Afek served as the primary flourmill for the city of Acre, the de-facto capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The mill, (which operated until 1925), is strategically located on the Na'aman Stream and is one of the last flourmills from the Crusader era that is still intact.
There are references to Ein Afek as Kurdani or Recordani. Ein Afek (not to be confused with Tel Aphek) is a type of Crusader fortification known as a Turis (sometimes spelled Turris) – which is essentially a guard tower. The Templars built this particular fortification for economic reasons in the mid 12th century. The plentiful water from the nearby stream – made the flourmill a viable and valuable enterprise, which had to be protected. To operate the mill, the Crusaders built a 600-meter dam whose remains are still clearly visible. This dam formed a lake and two waterfalls and was instrumental in the day-to-day operation of the flourmill.
During the Crusader era the mill had just two millstones, but later on during the Ottoman era others were added until it finally had a total of five millstones. If you look at the ceiling, you'll be able to make out the metal rope holders that were used to operate the stones.
As you approach the Turis, it will immediately become evident that some of the structure is indeed Crusader in origin, while the top of the building is clearly from a much more modern era, the British Mandate – when Ein Afek served as a police station.
Today, the building houses a small museum. The arched doorway (see photo) is the entrance to the museum. As you enter the museum – the first room features some old farm implements, while the beautiful room to your right, with vaulted ceilings is the hall where the flourmill was located. Note you may have to ask for the museum to be unlocked at the entrance.
As you stand facing the archway, look to the left, in the corner - on the ground you will see a wonderful example of typical Crusader masonry, a cornerstone with sunken margins. These types of stones are often used to identify whether a structure is indeed Crusader or not. This particular stone also has another common Crusader feature – the mason’s mark. These marks had a dual purpose. Masons worked in groups. They marked each of the stones they cut, so that at the end of the day – the foreman would be able to know the amount of stones cut during the day by each group. In addition, some of these marks served a decorative purpose.
As you exit the museum, take the stairs to the left. This will bring you to the roof of the museum.
From there, enter the small doorway, that will lead you to (via a short 15-stair climb) to the roof of the more modern part of the structure, which serves as a great observation point providing a good view of the surrounding Ein Afek Nature Reserve.
Plants at the reserve include reeds, blackberry hedges, tamarisk trees, and bulrushes – while birds such as pygmy cormorants, moorhens, European coots, pelicans, cranes, black-winged stilts, and gray herons flock to the reserve.
Directions: To reach the site from the coastal highway, turn east at the Kiryat Motzkin-Ein Afek junction, following signs to Tel Afek and the cemetery. Do not follow the signs to Kibbutz Afek.
04/ 877-9992 or 04/ 877-8226TEL
Visiting Hours:Sunday-Thursday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Friday, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Saturday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Entry fees apply.