"The Almighty permitted me to rent a boat on the Sabbath, for war was nigh" (Reb. Nachman,1799)

 

akko.jpgLike many ancient cities in Israel, conquerors for 4,000 years sought to capture Akko as a prize. Established as a port in the Bronze Age, ruled by Phoenicians and the later Greeks who re-named it Ptolemais. Here Rome's Legions under Vespasian landed in 67 CE to begin a campaign that would last 6 years to suppress the Great Jewish Revolt in Judea, leaving its capital and Temple in Jerusalem in ruins. Well before its move from the ancient Tel on the Ne'eman river under early Muslim rulers to a promontory facing Mount Carmel, the city took prominence as the main port for the Galilee. Serving as the capital city for the 2nd Crusader Kingdom, the city later expanded again under the Ottoman Empire, only fading as a port city after the Galilee's Bedouin ruler founded Haifa, ending its dominance. It was here in Acco, with the help of British marines and using his own captured siege guns against him, that Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in the Levant came to an abrupt halt. The city's Ottoman Governor at the time, Ahmed Bashar, known as Él Jezzar' (The Butcher), left his mark in the shape of Israel's only classic Sunani-style mosque, named for its donor and housing his tomb in its courtyard. On the outskirts of the city is the holiest shrine for the Bahai faith - the burial site of the founding Prophet Ba'ha'Ullah in the gardens of the house in which he lived out the latter days of his life. Acco contains a unique synagogue founded by Tunisian immigrants, decorated with more than a billion pieces of colourful mosaic, depicting Biblical and historical events in the annals of the Israelites and Jews. Recent and wide-ranging excavations and restoration work has uncovered the hidden world of the Knights of the Crusader kingdom, their communication and drainage tunnels and their great halls, all previously hidden under the Ottoman prison, used to hold members of the Jewish resistance under British mandatory rule. A museum of this prison and the famous breakout which took place from it has now been restored and is run by the IDF. The Ottoman era bath-house and Khans, the Crusader hidden city, the port area fish restaurants, the mediaeval alleyways and markets all provide an amazing experience for visitors. A tour with me can give a sense of what these rulers sought after - some unique Akko Magic!