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Acre ( , Akko; , ʻAkkā) also Akko, is a city in the Western Galilee region of northernmarker Israelmarker. It is situated on a low promontory at the northern extremity of Haifa Baymarker. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Acre had a population of 46,000 at the end of 2007. Historically Acre has been regarded as the key to the Levant due to its strategic coastal location.


Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in Israelmarker. The name Aak, which appears on the tribute-lists of Thutmose III (c. 16th century BCE), may be a reference to Acre. The Amarna letters also mention a place named Akka. In the Bible, (Judges 1:31), Akko is one of the places from which the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanites. It was in the territory of the tribe of Asher. According to Josephus, Akko was ruled by one of Solomon's provincial governors. Throughout the period of Israelite rule, it was politically affiliated with Phoeniciamarker rather than the Philistines. Around 725 BCE, Akko joined Sidonmarker and Tyremarker in a revolt against Shalmaneser V.

Greek and Roman periods

Greekmarker historians refer to the city as Ake, meaning "cure." According to the Greek myth, Heracles found curative herbs here to heal his wounds. Josephus calls it Akre. The name was changed to Antiochia Ptolemais shortly after Alexander the Great's conquest, and then to Ptolemais, probably by Ptolemy Soter, after the partition of the kingdom of Alexander the Great.

Strabo refers to the city as once a rendezvous for the Persians in their expeditions against Egyptmarker. About 165 BCE Simon Maccabaeus defeated the Syrians in many battles in Galilee, and drove them into Ptolemais. About 153 BCE Alexander Balas, son of Antiochus Epiphanes, contesting the Syrian crown with Demetrius, seized the city, which opened its gates to him. Demetrius offered many bribes to the Maccabees to obtain Jewish support against his rival, including the revenues of Ptolemais for the benefit of the Temple in Jerusalemmarker, but in vain. Jonathan Maccabaeus threw in his lot with Alexander, and in 150 BCE he was received by him with great honour in Ptolemais. Some years later, however, Tryphon, an officer of the Syrians, who had grown suspicious of the Maccabees, enticed Jonathan into Ptolemais and there treacherously took him prisoner.

The city was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Tigranes II of Armenia. Here Herod built a gymnasium, and here the Jews met Petronius, sent to set up statues of the emperor in the Temple, and persuaded him to turn back. St Paul spent a day in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). A Roman colonia was established at the city, Colonia Claudii Cæsaris.

After the permanent division of the Roman Empire in 395 CE, Akko was administered by the Eastern (later Byzantine) Empire.

Arab rule and the Crusades and the Battle of Acre 1191

Old City of Acre, early 20th century

Following the defeat of the Byzantine army of Heraclius by the Muslim army of Khalid ibn al-Walid in the Battle of Yarmouk, and the capitulation of the Christian city of Jerusalem to the Caliph Umar, Acre came under the rule of the Rashidun Caliphate beginning in 638. The Arab conquest brought a revival to the town of Acre, and it served as the main port of Palestine through the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates that followed, and through Crusader rule into the 13th century. It was captured by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1104 in the First Crusade and the Crusaders also made the town their chief port in Palestine. It was re-taken by Saladin in 1187, and unexpectedly besieged by Guy of Lusignan reinforced by pisan naval and ground forces at first, in August 1189. But it was not captured until July 1191 by Richard I of England, Philip of France, Leopold of Austria with what was left of the German army and the rest of the crusader's army. It then became the capital of the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1192. In 1229 it was placed under the control of the Knights Hospitaller. The Crusaders called the city "Acre" or "Saint-Jean d'Acre" since they mistakenly identified it with the Philistine city of Ekronmarker, in northern Philistia, now southern Israelmarker. It was the final stronghold of the Crusader state, and fell to the Mameluks of the Ayyubid Sultanate in a bloody siege in 1291.

Ottoman rule

The Ottomans under Sultan Selim I captured the city in 1517, after which it fell into almost total decay. Henry Maundrell in 1697 found it a ruin, save for a khan (caravanserai) occupied by some French merchants, a mosque and a few poor cottages.
Towards the end of the 18th century it revived under the rule of Dhaher al-Omar, the local sheikh. His successor, Jezzar Pasha, governor of Damascusmarker, improved and fortified it, but by heavy imposts secured for himself all the benefits derived from his improvements. About 1780 Jezzar peremptorily banished the French trading colony, in spite of protests from the French government, and refused to receive a consul.

In 1799 Napoleon, in pursuance of his scheme for raising a Syrian rebellion against Turkish domination, appeared before Acre, but after a siege of two months (March–May) was repulsed by the Turks, aided by Sir Sidney Smith and a force of British sailors. Having lost his siege cannons to Smith, Napoleon attempted to lay siege to the walled city defended by Ottoman troops on 20 March 1799, using only his infantry and small-calibre cannons, a strategy which failed, leading to his retreat two months later on 21 May.

Jezzar was succeeded on his death by Suleiman Pasha, under whose milder rule the town advanced in prosperity till 1831, when Ibrahim Pasha besieged and reduced the town and destroyed its buildings. During the Oriental Crisis of 1840 it was bombarded on 4 November 1840 by the allied British, Austrianmarker and French squadrons, and in the following year restored to Turkish rule.

British Mandate

The province included the modern cities of Sidonmarker, Tyremarker, Nabatiyemarker, Nahariyyamarker, and some other inland villages and towns such as Umm al-Farajmarker, Mazra'amarker, and Dayr al-Qassimarker.

The citadel of Acre was used by the British as a prison and as a location for a gallows. Many political prisoners, mainly Jewish underground movement activists, such as Zeev Jabotinsky and Shlomo Ben-Yosef, were jailed in the citadel-prison of Acre. Ben-Yosef, an Irgun activist, was the first Jew to be executed under the British mandate.

On May 4, 1947, the Irgun broke into the Acre citadel-prison in order to release Jewish activists imprisoned there by the British. Some 255 inmates escaped, the majority Arab. Twenty-seven prisoners from armed Jewish groups escaped (20 from Irgun, seven from Lehi). In the immediate aftermath of the raid, nine were killed, and five attackers and eight escapees were captured.

Despite the heavy toll in human lives, the action was described by foreign journalists as "the greatest jail break in history." The London Haaretz correspondent wrote on May 5:
"The attack on Acre jail has been seen here as a serious blow to British prestige... Military circles described the attack as a strategic masterpiece."
The New York Herald Tribune wrote that the underground had carried out "an ambitious mission, their most challenging so far, in perfect fashion."Of the five captured attackers, three who had been carrying weapons were tried and sentenced to death; the other two, minors who were unarmed when captured, received life sentences.

Acre harbour

1948 Arab–Israeli War

In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Acre was designated part of a future Arab state. During the war of 1948, Acre was besieged by Israeli forces.

A typhoid fever outbreak in Acre at this time. Egypt made unfounded claims that the Haganah used typhus as a biological weapon against the inhabitants. Brigadier Beveridge, chief of the British medical services, proclaimed that "Nothing like that ever happened in Palestine". According to New Historian Ilan Pappé, subsequent investigation by Beveridge, Colonel Bonnet of the British army and delegates of the Red Cross concluded that the infection was caused by water-borne sources. Israel denies it has ever used biological weapons.

Acre was captured by Israel on May 17, 1948 and about three-quarters of its Arab population (estimated at 13,000 in 1944) became displaced as a result.


About two-thirds of Acre's population is Jewish, and Arab citizens of Israel constitute about one-third. According to public figures from among this community, almost 70 percent of the residents in the old Mandatory district near the Old City are Arab. Only about 15 percent of the current Arab population in the city descends from families who lived there before 1948. Schools for Arab citizens have been underfunded, and by 2000 there was only one Arab elementary school in the city. Ethnic tensions erupted on October 8, 2008 turning into five days of violence after an Arab citizen drove through a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood during Yom Kippur.

Conservation projects

View of Old City
Acre's Old City has been designated by UNESCOmarker as a World Heritage Site. Since the 1990s, large-scale archeological excavations have been undertaken and efforts are being made to preserve ancient sites. In 2009, renovations were planned for Khan al-Omadan, the Inn of the Columns", the largest of several Ottoman inns still standing in Acre. It was built near the port at the end of the 18th century by Ahmed Pasha el-Jazzar. Merchants who arrived at the port would unload their wares on the first floor and sleep in lodgings on the second floor. In 1906, a clocktower was added over the main entrance marking the 25th anniversary of the reign of the Turkish sultan, Abdul Hamid II.

Sea walls

In 1750, Daher El-Omar, the ruler of Acre, utilized the remnants of the Crusader walls as a foundation for his walls. They were reinforced between 1775 and 1799 by Jezzar Pasha and survived Napoleon's siege. The wall was thin: its height was 10 to 13 metres (33 to 43 feet) and its thickness only one metre (3 ft).

A heavy land defense wall was built north and east to the city in 1800-1814 by Jezzar Pasha (called by the locals Al-Jezzar) and his Jewish advisor Haim Farhi. This wall is the first notable thing to come into sight when coming to Acre. It is a modern counter artillery fortification which includes a thick defensive wall, a dry moat, cannon outposts and three Burges (large defensive towers).

The sea wall, which remains mostly complete, is the original El-Omar's wall that was reinforced by al-Jezzar.

Jezzar Pasha Mosque

The Mosque of Jezzar Pashamarker was built by Jezzar Pasha in 1781. Jezzar Pasha and his successor Suleiman Pasha are both buried in a small graveyard adjacent to the mosque.

Hamam al-Basha

Built in 1795 by Jezzar Pasha, Acre's hammam has a series of hot rooms and a hexagonal steam room with a marble fountain. It is notable mainly because it was used by the Irgun as a bridge to break into the citadel's prison.

Citadel of Acre

Acre harbour

The current building which constitutes the citadel of Acre is an Ottoman fortification, built on the foundation of the Hospitallerian citadel. The citadel was part of the city's defensive formation, reinforcing the northern wall. During the 20th century the citadel was used mainly as a prison and as the site for a gallows. During the British mandate period, activists of Jewish Zionist resistance movements were held prisoner there; some were executed there.

Today, the citadel of Acre contains the following:
  • Ottoman fortifications (including a tower and moat)
  • Acre Old City Visitor Center
  • The "enchanted garden": a garden planted in keeping with the historical description of the Crusader garden that existed here
  • British prison and the gallows
  • A museum and memorial to the Jewish resistance fighters executed during the British Mandate (Olei Hagardom)
  • Prison cell of Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith
  • Knights' Halls

The Knights' Halls

Underneath the Citadel in the Knights Halls
Under the citadel and prison of Acre, archaeological excavations revealed a complex of halls, which was built and used by the Hospitallers Knights. This complex was a part of the Hospitallers' citadel, which was combined in the northern wall of Acre.

The complex includes 6 semi-joined halls, one large hall (recently excavated), a dungeon, a dining room and remains of an ancient Gothic church. Medieval European remains include the Church of Saint George and adjacent houses at the Genovese Square (called Kikar ha-Genovezim or Kikar Genoa in Hebrew). There were also residential quarters and marketplaces run by merchants from Pisa and Amalfi in Crusader and medieval Acre)

Bahá'í holy places

There are many Bahá'í holy places in and around Acre. They originate from Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the Citadel during Ottoman Rule. The final years of Bahá'u'lláh's life were spent in the Mansion of Bahjímarker, just outside Acre, even though he was still formally a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire.

Bahá'u'lláh died on May 29, 1892 in Bahjí, and his shrinemarker is the most holy place for Bahá'ís — their Qiblih, the location that Bahá'ís should face when saying their daily obligatory prayers. It contains the remains of Bahá'u'lláh and is near the spot where he died in the Mansion of Bahjí.

Other Bahá'í holy places in Acre include the House of `Abbúd (where Bahá'u'lláh and his family resided) and the House of `Abdu'lláh Páshá (where later 'Abdu'l-Bahá resided with his family), and the Garden of Ridván where Bahá'u'lláh enjoyed spending the later part of his life.

On July 8, 2008, these holy places of the Bahá'í Faith, along with those in the nearby city of Haifa, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, placing them alongside such sites as the Acropolis, the Taj Mahalmarker, Vatican Citymarker, and the Old City of Jerusalemmarker. The Bahá'í shrines, however, "are the first sites connected with a relatively new religious tradition to be recognized by the World Heritage List."


The city's football team Hapoel Acre is a member of Liga Leumit, the second tier of Israeli football, after a brief stint in the Ligat ha'Al top division during the 1970s.


The Acre central bus station, served by Egged, offers city and inter-city bus routes to destinations all over Israel. The city is also served by the Acre Railway Stationmarker.

Notable tombs

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Acre is twinned with the following cities:

See also


  1. Other spellings and historical names of the city include Accho, Acco and (Bahá'í orthography) `Akká, or formerly Aak, Ake, Akre, Akke, Ocina, Antiochia Ptolemais ( ), Antiochenes, Ptolemais Antiochenes, Ptolemais or Ptolemaïs, Colonia Claudii Cæsaris, and St.-Jean d'Acre (Acre for short)
  2. Burraburias II to Amenophis IV, letter No. 2
  3. Becking Bob (1992) The Fall of Samaria: An Historical and Archaeological Study BRILL, ISBN 9004096337 pp 31-35
  4. The Guide to Israel, Zev Vilnay, Ahiever, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 396
  5. Pappé, Ilan, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007), p. 100
  6. Operation Ben-Ami
  7. Torstrick Rebecca L. (2000) The Limits of Coexistence: Identity Politics in Israel University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0472111248 p 219
  8. Unearthing Acre's Ottoman roots

External links

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