Location: Northwest Israel

Description of Acre (Akko)

Ancient Akko is situated in the Nortwest Israel. It is one of the most imporatnt urban centers in the Holy Land and in different times played a key role in the history of the region. Ancient Akko is a historic part of the modern Acre that is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Holy Land. Akko or Acre was first settled by Canaanite tribes during Early Bronze Age around 3000 BC. However much of the Old City was constructed by Crusaders and Arabs in the medieval times. Akko was captured by soldiers of the First Crusade in 1099 the same year they captured Jerusalem. It became a chief port city that provided connection between Middle East and Western Europe. After Jerusalem fell Akko became the last European fortress in the region. It was captured by Bahri Mamluks in 1291 despite fanatic resistance by Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller. The city was left in ruins until 16th century when it was captured by the Ottoman Empire. A series of governors rebuilt the city. One of the most famous was Ahmed Pasha el- Jazzar who constructed the main mosque in the city and successfully defended his province against invasion of the French Army under command of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799.


Acre (Akko) Travel Destinations

Akko Crusader City

El- Jazzar Street

Tel. (04) 995 6706

Open: 8:30am- 4pm Sun- Thu, 8:30am- 2pm Fri

Crusaders City was constructed by European engineers in the 12th and 13th centuries. Today medieval street level lies 8 meters (25 feet) below modern streets, but in the 20th century this part of Akko was re- discovered. Archeologists discovered and uncovered medieval streets, buildings, Gothic- arched halls where Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller once dined. The most impressive dining hall belonged to the Order of the Knights Hospitallers. Underground passageways also allows entrance to El- Bosta that in Arabic can be translated as "post- office". In the medieval times it was probably used as a prison for criminals, hostages and other inmates. During Turkish Ottoman period these underground caverns were used as a post office, hence the name. One of the most secretive and mysterious inhabitants of Crusader City of Akko were obviously Knights Templar. Many people still attempt to discover secret rooms and hidden passageways that is said to keep various Christian and Jewish valuables. There have been numerous theories that point to Akko as the final resting place of Chalice of Grail, Ark of the Covenant and many others.


Mosque of El- Jazzar

El- Jazzar Str.

Tel. (04) 991 3039

Open: daily

Mosque of El- Jazzar was constructed in the second half of the 18th century during reign of Ahmed Pasha El- Jazzar ("the Butcher"). He continued reconstruction project of Acre after it was reduced to ruins during the siege of 1291 when Crusaders were finally kicked out of Holy Land. Many of the stones, columns and decorations were taken from older Roman and Crusaders ruins, incorporating them in new buildings thus reducing the cost. Inside the Mosque of El- Jazzar you can see intricate sarcophagi of El- Jazzar and his son. Interestingly current Muslim house of prayer stands on top of Crusader's Christian church. It is accessed from the inner courtyard cloister. Turkish didn't destroy medieval structure and instead turned it into a water collecting cistern. During wet months of the year water trickles inside where it can be used through out dry months of the year.


Municipal Museum of Acre (Akko)

El- Jazzar Street

Tel. (04) 995 1088

Open: daily, Fridays only in the morning

Municipal Museum is situated in former Turkish baths that were constructed in 1780's during rule of governor Ahmed Pasha El- Jazzar. Hence Arabs of Akko commonly refer to this site as Hammam el- Pasha or "Baths of the Governor". It is a beautiful building that was used by men of the city as a place for hygiene and socialization. Here they met to talk, discuss and participate in various disputes. El- Jazzar invested large sums of money to make his bath house as one of the most beautiful not only in Akko, but also the whole region. Its floor was covered by marble of various colors while walls were covered by intricate decorations. Turkish bathhouse was used until 1940's.


Khan el- Umdan

Khan el- Umdan also known as Caravanserai of Pillars or Inn of the Columns is a beautiful caravanserai or an inn for visitors of Acre. It is the largest such structure in Israel and one of the largest in the region. Khan el- Umdan was constructed in 1784 by Turkish governor El- Jazzar on a site of Royal Customs house of the medieval Kingdom of Jerusalem. Its most distinguished feature is a tall clock tower that is visible from most of part of the Old City of Acre.


Akko Citadel

Ha- Hahannah Street

Tel. (04) 995 6707

Open: Sun- Fri, Fridays: mornings only

Akko Citadel was built in the 18th century by the Ottoman Turks on older ruins of medieval Crusader's buildings. During the British Mandate in the early 20th century rooms of the Citadel were used as a prison for Jewish political activists and terrorists. Many were subsequently executed in the Gallows Room. Some claim to experience paranormal activity in this area of the Akko Citadel. If you want to learn more about this page of history you should visit the Museum of Underground Prisoners.



Ancient history
Akko is one of the oldest cities in the region, the population of which has not been interrupted since its foundation.

According to various sources, people settled here as early as the Late Copper or Early Bronze Age: 6000 or 5500 years ago - however, those settlements were unstable and unurbanized. Their material traces are lost 5000 years ago for about a millennium, although indirect evidence of the presence of people here can be found. On the territory not far from Akko, the remains of settlements from the times of the Yarmuk culture (7000 - 8500 years ago) were also found.

Around 2350 B.C the army of Pharaoh Pipi I under the leadership of his commander Una probably passes through the Akko valley. The latter's autobiography mentions a landing from the sea behind the "nose of the antelope" - that is, perhaps beyond Mount Carmel - in order to pacify the rebels. It is believed, however, that the actual battle took place in the Jezreel Valley.

The first document that - possibly - directly mentions Akko, is the royal archive of Ebla (eng. Ebla tablets), (c. 2400-2250 BC). Along with the coastal Byblos, Sidon, Dor, Ashdod and Gaza, Akko was included in the trade route of the merchant from Ebla. However, the lack of finds relating to this era casts doubt on the identification of the city mentioned in the archive. Although much more ancient finds, as mentioned, exist.

Around 2000 B.C. e. cities began to appear en masse in the Akko valley - the first artifacts testifying to Akko as a city date back to this time. Then it was located northeast of the modern city, one and a half to two kilometers from the sea: its remains are now known as Tel Akko (Hebrew תל עכו‏‎). Perhaps in those days the coastline looked different, and the water came close to the city.

Akko was located at the crossroads of international trade routes and therefore has always been an important center. The city was a meeting place for many diverse cultures and a strategic site for military campaigns.

"Among all the cities on the Syrian coast, from Antioch to Gaza, there is no other city like Akko, whose chronicle would be so eventful, and there is no other city whose influence on the fate of the whole country would be so great." (Laurence Oliphant, 1882)

Somewhere around 1800 BC, there were about 25 cities in the valley, many (Akko among them) surrounded by walls. The existing agglomeration was the first in terms of population and the second in importance (after Hatzor) in the territory of modern Israel. Numerous imported objects found by archaeologists prove the developed trade relations with Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the coast of Lebanon and Antalya. Among the finds is a scarab with the name of Pharaoh Senusret I (1971-1926 BC).

Acre is apparently mentioned in Egyptian Execration texts dating from no later than 1800-1725 BC These texts were written on earthenware, which was smashed in order for the curses to take effect. The name of Akko - like many other cities (including three more from the Akko Valley) - was inscribed on a clay figurine of a captive. Nearby was written the name of the cursed king of Akko: Tir'am.

The next mention of Akko is the name ''Aak'', found in the list of cities carved on the wall of the Karnak temple of Amun in Thebes, conquered during the first military campaign of Thutmose III (about 1456 BC, according to other sources 1468 BC). In the Amarna letters of the 14th century BC (in the region of 1400 BC) - ancient Egyptian cuneiform archives of the correspondence of the Canaanite kings found during excavations at El Amarna - a place called Akka is also mentioned; as well as in the "texts of curses" preceding in time. Later, the city came under the rule of the Hittites and was reconquered by Seti I in the 13th century BC, along with other southern Phoenician cities.

In the book of Joshua, as well as in other sources, the city was mentioned under the names "Ahshaf" and "Umma". During the era of the Israelite kingdom, it was under the rule of the Phoenicians and was culturally associated with Phenicia. In the Tanakh (the book of Judges) it is mentioned under the name of Akko in connection with the resettlement of the tribe of Asir, into whose allotment Akko entered, but from which he could not expel the local Canaanite inhabitants. Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acre, and the inhabitants of Sidon, and Ahlav, and Ahziv, and Helva, and Aphek, and Rehob. (Judg. 1:31). According to Josephus, who calls it Acre, the city was ruled by one of the governors of Solomon's provinces.


Around 725 BC Acre joined Sidon and Tire in a rebellion against Shalmaneser V. In 701 BC, Akko was conquered by the Assyrian king Sancherib. The population of Akko rebelled against his son Esarhaddon (Ashurakhiddin), who, however, again took possession of Akko around 650 BC during the period of Persian rule, Acre became a naval base that played an important role in the war against Egypt. Strabo describes the city as being at one time a gathering place for the Persians on their expeditions against Egypt.

Greek, Jewish and Roman periods
After the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, Akko was not conquered by them and remained under the rule of Tyre.

Greek historians call the city Ake, which translates as "healing". According to Greek myth, Hercules found healing herbs here that healed his wounds. In 333 B.C. the city was quickly conquered by Alexander the Great and turned into a Greek colony. Shortly after the conquest, its name was changed to Antioch Ptolemais (in Greek Αντιόχεια Πτολεμαίς).

In 330 BC.  the city is transferred from Tel Acre to the seashore. Akko became the most important port city in the country, and one of the largest cities in the Hellenistic world. The city spread over an area of ​​1000 dunams.

After the death of Alexander the Great and the division of the kingdom, the city was taken over by the Egyptian Ptolemies, who (probably Ptolemy Soter) gave it the name Ptolemais. Under this name, Akko is mentioned in the Bible, in the non-canonical First Book of Maccabees (5:22), and in the New Testament - in the book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, which describes the missionary journey of the Apostle Paul, who spent a day in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7 ).

Captured by Antiochus the Great in 219 BC. Acre became part of the Seleucid Empire and was named Antioch. Being under the rule of the Seleucids, Akko repeatedly served as a base for military operations against Judea. Around 165 BC Judas Maccabee defeated the Seleucids in several battles in Galilee and pursued them to Ptolemais. About 153 BC the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, Alexander Balas, who fought for the crown of the Seleucids with Demetrius, captured the city, which opened its gates to him. Demetrius offered many bribes to the Maccabees to win Jewish support against his rival, including the transfer of Ptolemaida's proceeds to the Jerusalem Temple, but all to no avail. Jonathan Maccabeus put on Alexander, and in 150 BC was received with great honors by him in Ptolemais. A few years later, however, Tryphon, a Seleucid officer who had begun to suspect the Maccabees, lured Jonathan to Ptolemais, where he treacherously captured him.

After the death of Antiochus VII Sidet, Akko passed from one Hellenistic ruler to another and became a de facto independent city. During the time of the Hasmonean state, Acre was besieged by the troops of Alexander Yannoy. At that moment, Akko had the status of a free Greek city, headed by the city state council (Bule). Bule Akko turned to Ptolemy Latour for help. Ptolemy arrived to the aid of the besieged Acre with an army of thirty thousand and landed in the area of ​​\u200b\u200bmodern Haifa. Under the pressure of this, Alexander Jannay had to lift the siege from Akko, although he advanced to the very approaches to the city.

Under Pompey in 52-54. BC it was annexed to the Roman Republic. In 48-47 years. BC Julius Caesar landed in Acre. The city was conquered by Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Tigran II of Armenia. In 39 BC Herod I used Akko as a stronghold in his military operations against Mattityahu Antigonus II. He built a gymnasium here; the importance of Akko's harbor declined after Herod I built a port at Caesarea. When the First Jewish War began, a Jewish uprising began in Acre in 67 CE from Acre, Vespasian undertook a campaign against the rebellious Galilee.

The Roman colony of Claudia Caesaris was founded in the city. During the Roman period, Akko significantly outgrew the boundaries of the Old City. During this period, Jews continued to live in the city, but never constituted a majority in it. The Jews called the city still Akko. After the final division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Akko came under the control of the Eastern Roman (later Byzantine) Empire.


Early Islamic period

Following the defeat inflicted on the Byzantine army of Heraclius by the Muslim army of Khalid ibn al-Walid in the Battle of Yarmuk and the capitulation of Christian Jerusalem to Caliph Omar, Akko, starting from 638, came under the rule of the Righteous Caliphate. According to the early Muslim historian al-Baladhuri, the actual conquest of Acre was led by Sharhabil ibn Hasana and most likely the city surrendered without resistance. The Arab conquest brought a revival to Acre, and the city served as the main port of Palestine during the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates that followed, and during the reign of the Crusaders until the 13th century.

The first Umayyad Caliph, Mu'awiyah (r. 661-680), considered the coastal cities of the Levant to be of strategic importance. Therefore, he strengthened the fortifications of Acre and moved the Persians from other parts of Muslim Syria to populate the city with them. From Akko, which became - along with Tyre - one of the most important shipyards in the region, Muawiya attacked Cyprus subject to Byzantium. In 669, the Byzantines attacked the coastal cities, prompting Mu'awiya to gather shipbuilders and carpenters and send them to Acre. The city continued to serve as the main naval base of the "military district of the Jordan" until the reign of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (723-743), who transferred most of the shipyards to the north, to Tire. Nevertheless, Acre remained militarily significant throughout the early Abbasid period; in 861 Caliph Al-Mutawakkil issued a decree to turn Akko into a major naval base, equipping the city with warships and combat units.

During the 10th century Acre was still part of the military region of Jordan. The local Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi visited Acre in 985, during the early Fatimid era, and described it as a fortified coastal city with a large mosque and a sizable olive grove. The fortifications were built by the formerly autonomous emir Ibn Tulun of Egypt, who annexed the city in the 870s, and provided relative security for merchant ships arriving at the city's port. When the Persian traveler Nasir Khosrov visited the city in 1047, he noted that the large Friday Mosque was built of marble, located in the center of the city, and immediately to the south of it was the "tomb of the Prophet Salih." Khosrow provided a description of the size of the city, which can be roughly equated to 1.24 km long and 300 m wide. These figures indicate that Akko at that time was larger than the current area of ​​its Old City, most of which was built between the 18th and 19th centuries.

Times of Christian rule
The real fame of Acre was brought by the era of the Crusades.

In 1104, after the First Crusade, the city was conquered by Baldwin I. In 1187, Saladin took the city almost without a fight, but already in 1191, during the 3rd crusade, after a two-year siege of Akko, he was recaptured by the troops of the crusaders under the command of the French king Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionheart.


The city became the capital of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in Palestine and was surrounded by powerful defensive structures. The city received a new name - Saint-Jean d'Acre.

The military knightly orders of the Hospitallers, the Templars, and later the Teutonic Order found their own quarters in Acre. They built houses, warehouses, hospitals, churches and administrative buildings here. More than 40 churches and 23 monasteries have grown in different parts of the city. Not a single city of the crusaders has survived to this day in such a preserved state as Acre.

In 1260, the Paris yeshiva of Rabbi Yechiel moved to Akko from Paris along with 300 students. Yeshiva settled in Akko, which made the city one of the important centers of Jewish learning.

Hospitallers, Templars, the Teutonic Order, merchants of Genoa, Venice and Pisa, who lived in the walled city, constantly argued for spheres of influence. In 1256, an armed conflict broke out between the Venetians and the Genoese, known as the War of Saint Sava, in which the knights of both orders were later involved.

In 1291, the city of the Crusaders, torn by civil strife, ceased to exist after it was stormed by Mamluk troops led by Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil; The Mamluks destroyed Acre and massacred most of its Christian and Jewish population. During the siege of the city, the church and monastery were destroyed, 14 abbots and more than 60 novices were killed.

Turkish rule
For many years Akko was a small fishing village. In 1517, it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under the command of Selim I. At the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, the city was ruled by the Druze Fakhr ad-din, who began to rebuild the city.

In 1721, Dahar al-Amar al-Zeidani became ruler of the Galilee. Realizing the strategic location of the city, he made it his capital and began to rebuild. First of all, he rebuilt the walls, the size of which was reduced in comparison with the Crusader period, and secondly, he invited Jews, Muslims and French to settle in the city again and created appropriate conditions for them. In 1752 he built a fortress.

In 1775, the Bosnian officer Ahmed came to power in the city, nicknamed Al-Jazzar (in Arabic, “jazzar” is a butcher) for his attitude towards opponents. Al-Jazzar continued the restoration of the city, built new mosques on the site of churches, a Turkish bath, strengthened the walls, built his palace, a bazaar. In 1799, thanks to his Jewish adviser Chaim Farhi and the English admiral Sydney Smith, he was able to resist the siege of the city, undertaken by General Bonaparte at the head of an army of 13,000. Tom eventually had to return to Egypt and abandon plans to advance to India.

Al-Jazzar was succeeded by his son Suleiman, and he was succeeded by his brother Abdullah. Fearing too much influence of Chaim Farhi, Abdullah decided to deal with him and executed him in 1810. The Farhi brothers tried to punish the ungrateful ruler, but Abdullah was able to stay behind the walls of the city, which the brothers could not take.

In 1831 Akko was conquered by the Egyptian army of Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali. On November 4, 1840, after the shelling of the city by the British-French-Austrian flotilla, it was returned to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1868, Baha'u'llah (Hussein-Ali-i-Nuri), the founder of the Baha'i religion, was sentenced to life imprisonment in the city of Acre.

After the construction of the Damascus-Beirut railway in 1896 and Haifa-Damascus in 1906, Akko lost its former strategic importance due to the rapid development of Haifa, the largest city and port of the Galilee.

British Mandate
In 1918, the British troops of General Allenby fought against the Turks and soon occupied the city. In the future, the British ruled the city under the Mandate for Palestine. The city was turned into the administrative center of the northern district. The British set up a prison in the Turkish fortress, where they kept Jewish political prisoners, including Vladimir Zhabotinsky in 1920.

In 1947, the combined forces of Etzel and Lehi attacked the prison and freed 27 prisoners. 9 people died, 5 were captured by the British. According to the plan for the partition of Palestine, Acre was supposed to go to the Arab state, but on May 14, 1948, during the Arab-Israeli war, the Israeli army occupied Acre, and approximately 8 of the 12 thousand Arabs living there fled to neighboring Arab countries.

Shortly after the war, Akko begins to develop rapidly outside the walls. Many repatriates settle in the city. In the mid-1960s, Jews left the old city because of the difficult living conditions there and moved to the new one. The old city soon turns into a center of tourism.

Today Akko is the administrative center of the Western Galilee, it has branches and departments of ministries, public institutions and courts.



Excavations in the city of Acre began almost immediately after the establishment of the State of Israel and continue to this day. During the excavations from 1954 to 1963, a number of multi-functional premises were discovered, identified as a fortress-monastery - the shelter of St. John, called the "Knight's Halls". During the excavation of the refectorium, an underground tunnel was discovered that leads from the fortress in the north to the seaport in the south.

The Israeli Ministry of Tourism is investing millions of dollars in the restoration of the old quarters in Akko. For many years, a program has been implemented to turn Akko into an international center for historical tourism.