Caesarea’s Roman amphitheatre and hippodrome were built by King Herod around 2,000 years ago, transforming the coastal city into the commercial capital of ancient Judaea.
By 6 BC it was the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine, and later became the most important city in the country following the destruction of Jerusalem.
In the Bible King Herod ordered the death of all young boys when Jesus was born to avoid being overthrown.
The structures, listed for tentative consideration for UNESCO heritage status, are still used to host local and international performers, with US band The Pixies set to hold two concerts there later this month.
According to a news report on local television station Channel 2, more than 170 acres of land were sold off in June by the Greek Orthodox Church.
The buyer of the land, including the areas on which the ancient structures stand, is reportedly an overseas holding company.
The Times of Israel newspaper said the areas sold include large parts previously designated as historic national parklands.
Channel 2 said the deal was done for an undisclosed amount between the church and a company called Saint Ventures Limited.
It adds that officials were completely blindsided by the sale, including those at the Israel Lands Authority and the Justice Ministry.
The Justice Ministry has reportedly called for a meeting to discuss the land sales – particularly following recent similar revelations, the Times of Israel stated.
Around 1,500 property owners in some of Jerusalem’s wealthiest neighbourhoods last month discovered the land on which their homes sit had been sold by the church to several private real estate firms.
The Greek Orthodox Church acquired more than 1,000 acres of land in the centre of the Israeli capital city in the 19th century, primarily for agricultural use.
Following Israeli independence, it agreed to lease the land to…