Acco then and now

Always  seeking to increase our knowledge of Israel’s  tourist  sites we tour guides  take   refresher tours form time to time.
Recently I joined a group of my colleagues on an in depth tour of the famous ancient port city of Acco on Israel’s northern coast. Acco is a gem of history, archaeology and folk lore From the  ancient Egyptians, to the Maccabees. Maimonides,Richard Lion Heart, Napoleon , the the Jewish underground  fighters break out from the  British “Bastille” and the victorious Israeli army of 1967; Acco has seen them all and its winding old street and alleys and picturesque  fishing port seem eager to tell their story.
Before I go any further, let  me highly recommend a visit to the former Turkish/British prison – fortress where the Jewish underground fighters of the Irgun  and the Lechi were imprisoned and  nine of them hanged by the British occupation museum now offers a state of the art series of presentations that ,using the back drop of the actual prison locations offer a wonderful  dramatic, reenactment  and explanation of the events and the “zeit geist
A hand full of determined young men  and women defeated the British empire and won their people’s independence  for the first time in two  thousand years. Not a bad  story Line. If  you  are a movie goer you may remember how in “Cast a giant shadow”,Paul Newman ran along the roofs as he blew a hole in the prison walls

But our story does not begi with  Hollywood. Archaeology has uncovered remains  from the times or Alexander the great as he  used Acco  port to dislodge the Persians, Yonatan the Maccabee  was murdered by his supposed Greek  hosts  and buried near the  “Land gate “ of Acco. Roman remains from the time when the Legions entered the land through Acco on their way to suppressing the great Jewish revolt and eventually destroying the Temple in Jerusalem

The most extensive unearthing are by far  those of the Crusader kingdom
When the horde of French and Italians  suddenly appeared on the horizon it was too late for the Muslim defenders to put up a good enough fight. Acco was stormed by the knights of the Crusades in 1096 when Muslims and Jews fought and  fell before the   sword liberating the holy Land for Christendom. In 1099 Jerusalem was sacked.
When Saladin finally defeated the Crusades , Richard the Lion Heart was able to hang on to the  port city of Acco for another fifty years until the  last Crusader set sail for  home.
It is  this Crusader city that has  been and is still being excavated in a truly impressive  way. As later Mamluk and Ottoman residents built upon the Crusader ruins, the latter were allowed to sleep in the dust of time undisturbed until  very recently
Hall after hall, secret escape tunnels Knights grand dining rooms -all as they looked when the swords and shields were gashing and  pounding

With Saladin s ultimate victory over the western invaders, some  famous Jewish luminaries came form the corners of the diaspora to make Acco their home. In fact Rabbi Yechial of Paris and a few hundred of the great “ba’ale tosafot” set  up a yeshiva in Acco. Eventually the great Ramban – Nachmanadies became the head of the Torah school there
Maimonides entered into te land of Israel through Acco port and the spot where he  set foot is named after him
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov actually found himself in Acco at not quite the best time. He  had visited the Holy land and Jerusalem and was ready to depart form Acco when Napoleon just began his famous siege of the city. He  escaped on a Muslim was ship and was given a gun to help in the battle against the French. Not what he had planned.
When Napoleon made his bid for Mid East conquest he  tried to sway the Turkish governors key Jewish adviser to  join him. He issued the French”Balfour declaration” in which he acknowledged the Jewish longing for their land and he agreed it was just to restore it t them after their long suffering and longing to come home. Napoleon promised to make it happen if  he  won. Chaim Farchi, the Pasha’s (Al Jazir -” the Butcher”) adviser would not betray his master. Napoleon lost the battle and Chaim Farchi was eventually executed by the Pasha’s heir. So much for loyalty. What if Napoleon Had indeed won..?… ..
The  Ramchal and the Ohr Hachaim, two  famous Jewish scholars made Acco their  home in the eighteenth century. The synagogue  named after the Ramchal is  a lone Jewish out post in the other wise  Arab Old city

In 1936 when the Arabs launched one of their rounds of pogroms as the British looked on, Acco’s jews fled , not to return until 1948 when it was liberated by the Israeli army. Many Arabs fled the fighting and Jews forced to flee their homes in Arab lands moved in. There were some  wise Arabs did not flee the fighting  and became Israeli citizens, the only Arabs in the Mid East enjoying who  democracy and civil liberties.
In  the last  years the Arab population has been expanding to former Jewish neighborhoods and there have been some Arab riots and intimidation as a group of young Jews moved in around the Hesder Yeshiva in an attempt to stem the tide of Jewish flight form the city  that is  a treasure of Jewish history and martyrdom
On our tour, our Acco city employee told  us that the  forty artistic  signs  placed above Jewish land marks in the old city were torn all  down by the “Muslim Movement of  the Galilee”  They were replaced with verses of the Koran and  are undisturbed
. The latest battle for  the city is being fought in the real estate offices. I had .occasion to look at  a number of buildings in the “changing” , former solid Jewish areas.  They fled Arabs in the old country and are doing the same in the “new country” It was  an eerie site to see many apartments with the mezuzas torn off the door posts and pictures of Mecca in its place. This is the latest battle for Acco. No storming of the walls or cannon fire. It is in the real estate offices where the silent  victory or defeat is determined.  I was told by agents  that  Jews sell to any one in his desire to flee the “changing neighborhood

Just this week I heard on the radio the pathetic plea of a young Jewish other living in a “mixed” neighborhood in Acco.
Each time her children enter the play ground to play, Arab children  with threatening dogs appear
demanding the courts for themselves.  The Jewish attempts to share the space is met with increasing
The elderly are not spared either,
In the threats(sounds  familiar?) .
. ”