Acre Israel, also known as Akko is a port city in Northern Israel at the end of Haifa Bay. It has been continuously inhabited since 2000 BC, making it one of the longest continuously inhabited citied on Earth. What else makes this ancient city stand out?
The Founding of Acre Israel
While it has been continuously inhabited since 2000 BC, the first evidence of civilization goes back to 3000 BC, during the early bronze age. It was likely just a farming community that lasted a few centuries before disappearing. It was re-established during the Middle Bronze Age and has been continuously occupied since.
The History of Acre Israel
With such a long history, Acre of course has had its share of interesting world history. One of these was being conquered by Alexander the Great. It became an important place of positioning for his invasion into Egypt. During this time it was called “Antiochia Ptolemais”.
Control of the are went back and forth between the Greeks and the Egyptians for some time. Other well-known leaders to conquer the city include Alexander Jannaeues, Cleopatra, and Tigranes the Great. Roman Emperor Claudius eventually took over, and the Romans and Byzantines ruled the area for centuries.
Acts 21:7 speaks of the area and the fact that there were Christians living there when Paul and Luke visited:
“We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day.”
The town was overtaken by the early muslims in 638AD and remained primarily under Islamic rule until the Crusaders took over in 1104. The Crusaders, under King Baldwin I of Jerusalem. It became the primary port for the Crusaders and important for the taking of Jerusalem and building of wealth.
For a brief period of four years, Acre was overtaken by the Muslim forces, along with Jerusalem. However, The Crusaders retook the city again and held it for another hundred years when King Guy of Jerusalem, King Richard 1 of England and King Phillip II of France worked together to take it back. It flourished again during this period.
It was the last crusader stronghold to fall to the Mamluks in 1291. In line with how the Mamluks kept the Crusaders from re-capturing cities, they mostly destroyed it entirely. They left a few important muslim areas but it laid in ruins for quite some time though artisans remained in the area largely undisturbed.
During the Ottoman Empire, it had 81 muslim households residing in its boundaries. It was still largely considered to be in ruin. The Ottomans began to refortify the city and build it back up. Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to take control of the city but was resisted by Turks and some British sailors.
It eventually fell under British rule during World War I. It continued on as part of a possible Arab state under the British Mandate. It became the scene of several attacks on Jewish settlements during that time.
It was captured by the nation of Israel on May 17, 1948.
Acre Israel Today
Acre continues to be a place of influence today. The population is a mix of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Baha’i followers. Baha’i reveres Acre as the religion’s holiest city. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site due to the length and interest of its history that is not only localized but brings in European history as well.
Acre Israel remains largely a fisherman’s city, where you will see fisherman standing on the walls for the day’s catch. It with its picturesque views it also remains a favorite for artisans in Israel, providing endless inspiration.
Points of Interest in Acre Israel
City Walls- The walls today were actually built in the 1700’s but they are built on the remnants of crusader era ruins. These are the same walls defended against Napoleon Bonaparte. The lighthouse is a recognizable feature but was not built until 1912.
Baha’i Faith Sites- A religion of newer history, Baha’i followers see Acre as its holiest city and due to this there are several sites associated with it. One of these is the site of the death of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i faith who was exiled to Acre. Now the site is home to a very beautiful garden.
Crusader Remain- The crusaders history here is deep… sometimes underground. One of the things you can see is the Hospitaller Fortress. The impressive flying buttress architecture stands out in these crusader ruins. The halls were used for administration as well as the storage of goods. They are truly a sight to behold!
Another site you can visit are crusader tunnels found by a plumber in 1994. The tunnels were previously used as a military escape route. Today you can take a walk through the tunnel and walk in the footsteps of the knights of the crusader period.
Acre is one of the cities that many don’t think to include on a tour of Israel, but there is plenty to see here! If this is your first or fiftieth trip to Israel, consider adding a trip to Acre to add another dimension to your knowledge of Israel’s diverse and complex history!