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Acre (Acco)


The remains of a Crusader breakwater and the massive Ottoman seawalls still protect the ancient city of Acre from the ocean rollers of the Mediterranean.

Acre is situated 14 miles north of Haifa and is built on the Bay of Haifa. Its geographic position has caused it to be occupied by every army waging campaigns in Syria and Erez Israel. During the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, Acre was in the territory of the tribe of Asher who could not conquer it, and it therefore remained an independent Phoenician city. When conquered by the Persians, Acre served as an important military and naval base in their campaigns against Egypt. It had its own coinage: gold and silver coins were minted there in 332 b.c.e. When an association of citizens loyal to the Greek tyrant Antiochus was living there, the city became hostile to the neighboring Jews in Galilee. In 164 b.c.e. Simeon the Hasmonean had to beat off its attacks, and his brother Jonathan was treacherously taken prisoner there in 143 b.c.e.

In the Middle Ages Jewish scholars arrived in Israel through the port at Acre and some settled in the town. In 1211, 300 rabbis from France and England arrived, and in 1260 Rabbi Jehiel ben Joseph of Paris remained in the town together with his son and 300 pupils, and promptly founded a yeshiva. Scholars of Israel and Babylon addressed their questions to the "scholars of Acre." The town became a center of study and attracted many scholars, such as Rabbi Abraham Abulafia and N|ahmanides. In time the community dwindled but was revived again in the 18th century. It became a political and military center strong enough to resist Napoleon's advance in 1799, and cause the collapse of his Middle Eastern expeditions.

During the British Mandate, a fortress in the town served as a prison where members of the Haganah including Moshe Dayan, as well as Vladimir Jabotinsky, were imprisoned.

Today Acre has been rebuilt as a modern industrial center with some 40,000 residents, but still contains an Old City with remains from the Ottoman period (I516--1918) which include the double wall of the city, the citadel, and a beautiful mosque still used by Acre's Arab population.


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