Head north to the beautiful coastal city of Acco and explore its colorful history
“Go North” is a very popular program of Nefesh b’Nefesh, the Aliyah agency bringing olim from North America and the UK to Eretz Yisrael. This is for good reason—northern Israel is not only affordable, but is filled with history, visually stunning vistas from rugged coastlines to stunning waterfalls in the mountains, growing cities, peaceful moshavim and kibbutzim, and fertile ground upon which which to plant the next generations of Am Israel.
One of the most visually stunning northern cities perhaps is Acco on the northern coast of the Mediterranean, just north of Haifa. Approximately 46,000 people make their home in this ancient port city, which has served as the spiritual home of four religions: Jewish, Christian, Moslem and Bahai. Visitors can see the well-preserved ruins of its many occupations, a fact that led to its designation in 2001 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Almost every civilization in the world has visited or attempted to make Acco its home. Prior to the Israelites’ entry into the Land under the leadership of Yehoshua, Acco was under Canaanite control. It was in the portion allotted to the tribe of Asher, although it is not clear if it was ever completely settled by them. In 701 BCE, it came under the control of the King of Assyria. The Greeks invaded around 333 BCE but were replaced by the Egyptians who arrived in 261 BCE. There are references to Acre in ancient Egyptian writings.
The Crusader occupation began in 1104 AD and Acco served as its capital city from 1191 until 1291. The city was enlarged and a wall and fortress was built around it, which remains completely intact to this day, except for two openings made by the British. In 1165 AD, Maimonides immigrated to Israel through the Acco port.
In 1743 Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto settled in Acco. Shortly after, the Turks took over the entire Galil and Acco became the capital of the Land of Israel in the Turkish Empire. The Beduin ruler, Daher el-Omar fortified the Crusader walls, renovated the port and expanded the city.
In the 18th century, still quite famous and desirable in the world, Napoleon Bonaparte tried to seize it as he was on his way to conquer India, but instead the British took it and Acco became part of the British colony.
You need a couple of days to adequately explore and soak in all the rich treasures of Acco’s past. Fortunately, the city is filled with accommodations, from rustic to five-star hotels. If your time is limited, be sure to tour the Citadel, built by the Ottomans over the ruins of a Crusader fortress. The British added a prison, which became the largest in the region, housing many Jews from the resistance movement. You can still see the small cells in the underground excavations, from where you can exit to the next stop on your tour: the Tunnel of the Templars.
The Tunnel of the Templars is a 350m long, secret tunnel excavated under Acre and used by the Crusaders until they were ousted by Saladin in 1187. It enabled them to move from the port to the fortress about without being seen. The tunnel will take you to the 13th century fortress.
At the end of your day of touring, head to the marina where you can enjoy dining at one of the many fish restaurants, or visit the shuk, which has been operating in pretty much the same place throughout the centuries.