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SITE STORIES

Northern Sites Stories
Acre (Akko)

Acre is a city in the Western Galilee district of northern Israel. 
Acre is one of the most important cities of the ancient world thanks to her fascinating historical heritage, authentic sights from the past, a unique meeting place of art and religion alongside the remains of various cultures and a rare blend of East and West. 


The city tells her history throughout the walls, its fortresses and citadels, its churches and mosques – the story of the many rulers who governed her and fought for her, who built her and glorified her. 
  
In the Greek and Roman periods the city name was changed to Antiochia Ptolemais   shortly after Alexander the Great's conquest  and then to Ptolemais. 
About 165 BC Simon McCabe's defeated the Syrians in many battles in Galilee, and drove them into Ptolemais. About 153 BC 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 Jerusalem, but in vain. Jonathan threw in his lot with Alexander, and in 150 BC he was received by him with great honor 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 Arabs captured the city in 638 CE, and held it until the Crusaders conquered Acre 


In 1104. The Crusaders made the town their chief port in Palestine. 


In 1191 it captured by Richard the Lionheart and became the capital of the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1229 it was placed under the control of the Knights Hospitaller and it was the final stronghold of the Crusader state, and fell to a bloody siege to the Mameluks in 1291. The Ottomans captured the city in 1517, after which it fell into almost total decay. 


Towards the end of the 18th century the city revived under the rule of Dhaher El-Omar, the local sheikh , he was the man who lost his head over a woman …when Jazzar Pasha  his successor, took over. Jazzar Pasha, governor of Damascus, improved and fortified it, but by heavy imposts secured for him all the benefits derived from his improvements. 


After them the British ruled and used the citadel of Acre as a prison mainly for political prisoners, and as a location for a gallows. Jewish underground movement activists, such as Zeev Jabotinsky and Shlomo Ben-Yosef, an Irgun activist, were jailed in the citadel-prison of Acre. Ben-Yosef 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. 
  
Acre's Old City has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since the 1990s, the Old Acre Development Company has been carrying out important conservation work, and many archeological digs are under way. Among the city's many historical landmarks is an underground passageway leading to a fortress of the Knights Templar from the 13th century.

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