History of Port Acre

Among all the cities on the Syrian coast, there is still no city like the beautiful Acre, whose history is full of so many different events which have had such a significant influence on the history of the whole country. These words of Lawrence Olifent describe the city, which this article is devoted to.

Acre – is one of the cities of Israel, which have had interrupted history for over 4000 years. Historically, this city was located at the crossroads of numerous international trade routes, so it has always been a historic center. Acre acted as a meeting point of a huge number of diverse cultures and a strategically important place for the many military campaigns. On top of all this, it is in Acre that beach vacations in Israel have been extremely popular throughout its history.

The city was first mentioned in the XIX century BC in cuneiform archives of the correspondence of the kings of ancient Egypt, found during excavations in El-Amarna. In the XV century BC Acre was successfully conquered by Thutmose III, and then became the center of the province of Canaan, which was under the suzerainty of Egypt. The city came under the power of the Hittites and was recaptured again by Seti I in the XIII century BC.

The Bible mentions a city called Acre in the book of Judges. It should be noted that after the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, they did not conquer the city and it continued to remain under the authority of Tyre. Then after a short while it was captured by Alexander the Great, and became a Greek colony. In 330 BC Acre moved from Tel Akko directly to the sea shore, where the numerous ports of Israel are presently located. Acre grew to become an important port city and one of the largest cities of the Hellenistic world.

After the death of Alexander the Great the city was captured by the Egyptian Ptolemies, who gave it the name of Ptolemaida. Captured by Antiochus the Great in the distant 219 BC Acre was then absorbed into the country of the Seleucids, after which it acquired the name of Antioch.

Acre became popular at the time of the Crusades. In 1191 during the Third Crusade, after a siege that lasted for more than two years, Acre has been successfully conquered by the troops of the Crusaders, commanded by the French king Philip Augustus, as well as the king of England Richard the Lionheart.

The city was renamed again, this time – St. Jean d’Akr. Knights’ The Orders of the Templars, the Hospitaller as well as the Teutonic Knights founded their quarters in Acre. They erected houses, hospitals, churches and other administrative buildings there. It should be noted that none of the Crusader cities managed survive in such a good condition up to present as Acre did.

During the next 400 years this city declined in size to a small fishing village. In 1517 it was conquered by the Ottomans. In the late XVI and early XVII centuries, the city was ruled by Fakhr-a-Din, who started rebuilding it again.

In 1721 Dahar al-Amar al-Zaynudi became the ruler of Galilee. Understanding the importance of  the strategic location of the city, he decided to make it the regional capital and started rebuilding it again. First of all, he constructed the walls, the size of which was slightly reduced as compared to the time of the Crusaders. He also encouraged Jews, the French and the Muslim people to resettle in the city again, and created almost perfect living conditions for them. In 1752 he built rather a large castle.

In 1775, a Bosnian officer, Ahmed, who got a nickname of ‘the Butcher’ for his attitude to his enemies, came to power in Acre. Ahmed continued restoration of the city, built a mosque on the site of the old churches, a Turkish bath, a palace and a market. At the end of the eighteenth century thanks to the Jewish advisor Haim Farhi, as well as the famous British Admiral Sidney Smith he was able to withstand the siege of the city, carried out by General Bonaparte with a 13-thousand army. Al-Jazzar’s son Suleiman became his heir, and then his brother Abdullah became an heir to him. Fearing his growing political influence, Abdullah decided to do away with him, having cruelly executed him in 1810.  Farhi‘s brothers tried to punish the ungrateful ruler, but Abdullah still managed to save himself within the walls of the city. In 1831 Acre was captured by the Egyptian army of Ibrahim Pasha. In autumn of 1840 the city was shelled by the Franco-Anglo-Austrian fleet, it was returned to Turkey.

In 1918, British troops of General Allenby defeated the  Turkish army, and soon took control of Acre and many other sea ports of Israel putting them under the British control, Palestine was later formally mandated to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations. The British turned Acre into the administrative center of the northern district. According to the UN plan for the partition of Palestine Acre had to become a part of Arab state, but in 1948 Acre, in its turn, was occupied by the Israeli army, and about 8 of the 12 thousand people of the Arabian population who lived there fled to neighboring countries.

Needless to say, almost immediately after the war finished, Acre started growing at an accelerated pace. Numerous Jewish refugees settled down in the city. In 1860s of the last century, the Jewish population left the old city due to very poor living conditions, and gradually moved to the new one. Old Town has evolved into a center of tourism. Nowadays Acre is an administrative center of Western Galilee, and it is an especially popular sea resort in Israel. Branch offices and departments of ministries and various public agencies as well as the court operate there.

Acre  is the second city in Israel to Jerusalem because of its large number of unique historical monuments. Wherever you go, you can see something ancient and always eye-catching, but more mysteries are hidden under the ground. In fact, there are two cities in one place. And even today, under the ground you can still discover a lot of unexpected and interesting things. Acre is of interest for numerous tourists because of its three aspects: historical, archaeological and architectural. You can have no doubt that the history of Acre is one of the most exciting and dramatic ones in the world.

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