The Port of Ashdod is Israel’s economic gateway, accounting for 60% of the country’s ocean-going trade. Located just 40 kilometers southwest of Tel Aviv, the Port of Ashdod is the closest port to Israel’s most important commercial centers and transportation networks. Operating since 1965, the Port of Ashdod is one of the country’s few ports on the open sea. In 2006, over 203 thousand people lived in the Port of Ashdod.
The City of Ashdod is Israel’s fifth largest city, with a population of about 207 thousand people, and an important industrial center for the region. It is one of Israel’s most important industrial centers and home to Israel’s largest port. The Port of Ashdod has been upgraded to support Panamax ships, and several shipping companies are located there. The major industry for Ashdod is an oil refinery, one of two in the whole country. Other industries include pharmaceuticals, construction, and soybean oil. It is also home to Israel’s manufacturer of radar equipment and electronic warfare systems.
One of the oldest cities in the world, the ancient city of Ashdod had ports at Ashdod Yam south of today’s city and at Tel Mor within the modern city limits. Archaeologists found Canaanite remains at the site that date as far back as the 17th Century BC.
In the late 13th Century BC, the “Sea Peoples” overran and destroyed Ashdod. By the early 12th Century, ancient Ashdod had become part of the Philistine five cities and prospered. In 950 BC, Pharaoh Siamun conquered the region, destroying Ashdod. The city remained in ruins until 815 BC.
The Christian Bible tells that Ashdod was assigned to the tribe of Judah, although the Israelites were not able to conquer the city or its nearby towns. When the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant during a battle, they took it to Ashdod’s Temple of Dagon.
King Uzziah of Judah captured the city in the 8th Century BC and rebuilt it, holding it only briefly. It was soon conquered by Assyria’s King Sargon II who destroyed the city and sent its Jewish residents into exile in southwest Persia.
Greek historian Herodotus reported that the pharaoh of Egypt besieged the Port of Ashdod for a period of 29 years in the 7th Century BC. In 605 BC, Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II invaded the city. The Persians rebuilt it in 539 BC, but it was soon overrun by Alexander the Great of Macedon. During the 6th Century BC, Ashdod was a largely Philistine city, the nearest one to Jerusalem.
During the 4th Century BC, the Hellenistic Greeks called the city Azotus, and the Port of Ashdod prospered under their rule. When Rome took over, Roman General Pompey reconstructed the Port of Ashdod’s city walls and had it transferred from Jewish rule to Syria. The Port of Ashdod continued to be an important city until the 7th Century AD, when a citadel was built in the Port of Ashdod to defend it against the Byzantine navy.
The Arab Fatimid dynasty constructed a fortress and village at the Port of Ashdod, enhancing the city’s status during the rule of the Ottomans. During the Middle Ages in Europe, the city declined in status. In 1596 AD, about 400 people lived in the village of Ashdod. By the early 20th Century, about five thousand people lived in the Port of Ashdod.
The Army of Egypt toll control of the Port of Ashdod during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and it was their northern-most advance post. When it clashed with Israeli forces, Egypt was not able to hold the town. Israeli Defense Forces soon expelled the Palestinian Arab residents who had remained in the city, and the area remained deserted for some time.
In 1956, Israel established the city of Ashdod, and 22 families of Moroccan immigrants moved in. They were soon joined by immigrants from Egypt. In 1957, the government of Israel granted a concession to the Ashdod Company Ltd. to build a modern city there. The first local council was formed in 1959, and the Magistrates’ Court started operating there in 1963.
The construction of the modern Port of Ashdod began in 1961, and it was opened for business in 1963. First used in 1965 by the Swedish ship Wiengelgad, the Port of Ashdod was soon an important commercial trade center for southern Israel.
In 1991, the Port of Ashdod’s population began to explode with the arrival of immigrants from the Soviet Union and the development of a modern infrastructure. Over one hundred thousand people moved into the Port of Ashdod between 1990 and 2001, including Jews from Ethiopia. In the 21st Century, the Port of Ashdod has grown with immigration from France, Argentina, and India as well as from the Dush Dan region of Israel.
Today’s Port of Ashdod, located about seven kilometers northwest of the ancient city, was founded in 1956 and incorporated in 1968. Protected by breakwaters, the artificial port is the only Mediterranean outlet for southern Israel, and most of the country’s citrus exports are shipped through the Port of Ashdod.