Sunday, September 10, 2006

Old and New in Israel.
July 1-2

It's amazing how "historical" changes meaning depending on where in the world you are. For example, the Sun campus in which I work is on the grounds of what used to be the loony bin (ok ok the care facility for would-be-napoleons) in Santa Clara. When Sun built the campus, they were forced by the local government and the historical society to keep the old hospital building and the old governor's mansion intact. Any change to them, like adding wiring, repainting, fixing doors, had to be approved by a committee. The hospital is now the Sun auditorium and the governor's mention is a set of executive meeting rooms. The buildings are less than a 100 years old.

Then you get the other historical. In my home town in Israel, on the way to the beach, there was this open space that had some semi-erect walls though the ceiling was long gone. There was a wire fence around it though I didn't understand why until one day I found it in a guide book to Israel - it's a 3000 years old Canaanite temple.

Akko (or Acre) is an old port town in the north of Israel. The port is not used for commerce anymore, except for tourist boats and some fisherman, but throughout history it was a major trade center. There's historical evidence of habitation going back 3-4 thousand years. It was conquered and has changed hands quite a few times and was ruled by the Turkish, Druze, Mamluks, Romans and Greeks and was even the capital of the Crusader empire for a while. Surprisingly enough the only one who did not manage to breach its walls and capture it was Napoleon! After trying to charge it 6 times and failing, he gave up and left.

Today it has an old town section that's a tourist attraction, as well as modern neighborhoods outside the walls. The population is mixed Arab and Jewish. I went there with my dad to walk around a bit, see some of the archaeological sites, and take some photos.

There's more and more being discovered there. The main site is what's called "The Knights' Halls" which is a now-underground Templar keep from the time of the crusades. It's being slowly uncovered as more and more is found underground. Apparently when the Muslim forces of Saladin recaptured Akko, they buried any traces of the crusaders.

As we made the tour, we came to an area that was an old bazaar. The recorded guide we had said it was closed when Akko stopped being a major trading post and was completely forgotten until someone stumbled on it in the not too distant past. I could not understand how a whole space could be forgotten, but maybe because buildings were continuously being erected on top of others, no one paid any attention to the foundations. I took this picture from inside the bazaar:

The other interesting feature of the old town (which is not that big - probably 2 by 2 km if at all) is the escape tunnels the crusaders had in place. From the keep, a tunnel lead to the harbor, as well as to some of the other buildings in the town. Considering the size of the town, they must have really worried about being trapped by an angry crowd since I doubt it was the distance they were worried about. This is a wide section of the tunnel. As it goes into the keep it becomes much smaller so that I had to bend down to walk through it. It was about 1 meter wide at its narrowest.

A later addition to the town were the Hans, large hotels-stables-trading-posts for traveling peddlers and merchants. They were built as a square structure around an open area with a well and a place to tie the horses. Rooms were available on the surrounding building's two stories. There were a couple of such Hans, usually dedicated to specific merchants. One, for example, is called the Frank Han, for the European merchants that used to stop there. This one is Han-al-Umdan, one of the biggest of its type. The marble columns came from the ruins of Caesarea, from a structure built by Herod 2000 years ago.

A lot of the old wall is still there. You can walk around on it and see what it was like to defend it in historic times. Nowadays it hosts a few restaurants and serves the local kids as a place to jump into the sea from:

I remember the same wall with other kids jumping off of it when I was a kid. Look at this picture carefully. There's a boy jumping off into the water in it:

I also caught him a few milliseconds later when he just reached the water. Here he looks like he's walking on it:

And then, there's the non-historic. I went with my father to the beach to take our new dog swimming. She's less than 6 months old and still growing. A mixed Labrador and Saint Bernard. She'll be big. Here's Yoka with my father:

The album is at:
Jul 1, 2006 - 11 Photos

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Norm said...

Nice photos. Love your writing style, funning and informative. Looking forward to your next trip report.

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yoojin said...

I love the photo of your father and dog. It look like Monet's!

Ryan said...

Very lovely information, I'm from Sweden, of Palestinian origin, originally from Acre aswell. Never been to the city of my origins, but I'm hoping someday I will :) Love the photos.