Acre

Overview

Introduction

Rich in history, Acre, Israel, (also called Akko) provides a nice break in any drive along the Mediterranean coastline in the area of Galilee. Plan at least half a day to explore its heritage in the Old City—Romans, Crusaders and Napoleon all passed through. Acre is located 80 mi/130 km northwest of Jerusalem.

Acre's Crusader Castle is a wondrous step back into the past—there are columned chambers with the symbols of the French royal family still engraved on the columns, vaulted Gothic ceilings and long, dark passages. Tour the Knights Hospitallers quarters, once at street level but now 29 ft/9 m below the surface. The compound is immense, and new sections are constantly being restored and opened to the public.

A dry moat surrounds the ancient walls of the town (the walls were built so well that they withstood Napoleon's attack in 1798). The 18th-century El Jazzar mosque graces Acre's skyline with its green dome and minaret. Across from the mosque is the Museum of Acre, located in an 18th-century Turkish bathhouse. Exhibits of restored ceramics, fountains and stained-glass windows capture the charm and atmosphere of the period. Other parts of the Old City show strong Arab, Turkish and British influences.

Take time to enjoy a meal at one of the terraces facing the sea. The catch is fresh each morning and is usually served with a multitude of salads (menza) made on the spot. During the Jewish holiday of Succot in the fall, Acre's Old City is host to the Israel Fringe Theater Festival—eight days of avant-garde stage presentation, street performances, outdoor concerts and arts-and-crafts markets.

On the main coastal road between Acre and Nahariya (Highway 4), you can visit the Ghetto's Fighters House, also known as the Museum of the Holocaust and Resistance. Founded in 1949 as part of a kibbutz for Holocaust survivors, it was the first museum of its kind in the world. The exhibitions depict the life of eastern European Jews before the Holocaust and during World War II, with a special emphasis on the Jewish Resistance. On the same premises is The Children's Memorial (Yad la Yeled). This museum is oriented toward educating young people on the experiences of the children who perished during the Holocaust.

Farther north, located at the Lebanese border, are the stunning sea grottoes of Rosh Hanikra. A steep cable-car ride takes you down into these natural sea-hewn passageways, just a few feet/meters above the wild Mediterranean waves.

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