Ancient Acre in Israel
Located on Haifa Bay in Western Galilee, the city of Acre was historically an important link to the geographic region and cultural zone known as the Levant – including most of modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus and the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Acre is also thought to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in Israel, with a history spanning more than 4,000 years. The huge sandstone fortresses and strongholds of the city bear testimony to its antiquity, resulting in Acre's Old City being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Today Acre is one of Israel's top attractions, where East blends with West, and antiquity and modernity meet, while cultures that have come and gone – Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans and British - have left reminders of days gone by. With tourism contributing significantly to the economy of the city, visitors are assured of warm hospitality, interesting historic landmarks, and lively cultural events.
One of Acre's many fascinating attractions is the Templar Tunnel. Built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar, also known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the tunnels were discovered 1994 and opened to the public in 1999. The tunnels connect the port to the fortress and were used extensively during the era of the Crusades when settlements were under attack by Muslims fighting the so-called Infidels, or non-believers. The Order of the Knights Templar was originally formed to protect the pilgrims against attack, but later became a powerful Western Christian military order endorsed by the Catholic Church. Visitors to the tunnels can walk along wooden platforms above an underground stream of fresh water and can imagine a time when people’s lives depended on these secret underground pathways.
Constantly washed by the Mediterranean Sea of Haifa Bay, the mighty city walls were constructed in 1750 by the Arab-Bedouin ruler of the city at the time, Daher El-Omar. Using the remains of walls built by the Crusaders as a foundation, the new walls featured gates in the eastern and southern walls, referred to as the "land gate" and "sea gate" respectively. The walls were later reinforced by Jezzar Pasha and remain intact to this day. The Acre lighthouse was built on the south-western corner of the city walls in 1912.
Built in 1781, the Mosque of Jezzar Pasha is another interesting landmark in Acre, as is the Hamam al-Basha, built by Jezzar Pasha in 1795. A number of Ottoman era buildings remain in the Old City of Acre, and the city is also home to a number of holy places for the Bahá'í Faith. Visitors who take the time to explore Acre soon come to see why it is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the State of Israel.