Quick return to Akko…

On Wednesday after a tricky two days with me and my colleague having to work extra hard to fix IT equipment breaking down in several places, all the staff at Bridges for Peace got to get on a retreat away up north to a Kibbutz converted into a hotel for a relaxing mid week break.

On the way we got to stop off at Akko, an ancient city that I visited only a couple of months ago, there was no obvious toilet block in the main road next to the sea, so it was a case of take a frantic wander round the old walls of city for the loo.

I saw a few new interesting discoveries, last time the sea was fierce and was lashing onto the road.  The time the tide is out, and there is this wonderful mix of ancient ruins and green seaweed or moss out in the harbour.

This adventuorous chap is doing abseiling down the sea walls, and someone else is fishing on the ruins.   I hope they know the tide times!

This may be distressing to animal lovers, but not sure who leaves a box of very new looking tiny kittens on the side of a street?

I found an English speaking young Arab girl, who said they were there just waiting for their mother, but looks to me like they were left for someone to take maybe?  Anyway she put them somewhere a bit more sheltered away from the cold wind coming from the sea.

Next, I get to learn to be a shepherd and see biblical farming techniques!

 

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Akko – Just Islam here?

Akko is a very Islamic city, its not near any of the Palestinian territories, however Akko was run by the Eastern Empire (also known as Byzantine)  in 395AD, about 900 years before Islam came about.

The bible only mentions it once in Judges 1 : 30-32.

Here you can see the familiar upright pencil shaped minarets the accompany mosque and buildings that are under Islamic authority.

From a distance its noticeable that this tall thin tower is a tiny bit lop sided.  This ought to be concern, seeing as one ancient one fell over in Morocco recently, resulting in about 75 people dead.

As other parts of the city are needing extensive work done on them like this below building is crumbling.  This court yard is called Khan al-Umdan and was built by the Ottoman Turks in 1784.

Whilst editing this I have just found the bit of nougat I forgot I had which was 10 shekels off the young chap who took this photo for me, he had all kinds of other nut cake and halva and Turkish delight on a stand here.

I set out to see if there was any part of Christianity here, and if there are Arab believers today.  There were of course, Crusades here, which is a regrettable part of history, from people calling themselves Christians acting in no way Christians should be.

There are symbols of a Jewish community in the old city as you can see below, and I went in a synagogue which was a few metres away from a mosque.

Unlike Jerusalem’s old city which has more defined quarters for the different communities with in the walls, here its more tricky to find where Jews and Christians live.  Are things peaceful between Arabs and Jews here?  Well I guess for most part, I do remember seeing on the news about some problems in the past sometimes.

Left: Seems to be a church here, in a cellar type building.  Right: Small synagogue tucked away.

I didn’t find any churches that were open for casual visits whilst I was there.  This one was an attractive looking building but it was locked.  Of course its hard to tell if some churches are actual operating places of worship or just dusty bits of history.

The other little known faith that is here I have read about is the Baha’i faith, which has origins from Iran, and has a unusual temple with big gardens up in Haifa, but also has a place here.  I don’t know much about this though or get time to see it.

Its only when I got back home, I have found on the web Evangelist Baptism Church Akko, which has a mixture of Arab and Jewish believers in Jesus.  Check out their site here.

Akko – sad day

Lunch time I sat at a typical street side fast food place and got a Chicken Schnitzel sandwich. This was a bit cheaper than in Jerusalem, although bottle of Coke I got with it, was not proper Coca Cola but a cheap substitute made in Turkey.

When I had almost finished this, I saw two boys carrying a wreath of flowers.   A short while later there was a large group over people walking down the street, with two coffins being carried down.

I was walking this way anyway, so I walked along from a safe distance.   The man in the place where I had my lunch told me an Arab youth had been killed in accident.

After stopping at a cemetery just outside of the old city walls of Akko, there was a grave waiting.  I noticed all the people on the walk with the casket were entirely men.  I don’t know much about Islamic funeral practices but I did wonder where the mother and women of this family go to grieve, I noticed that one of the caskets was open with the lid askew.  I am not sure if there were two people to be buried or if one of them contained artifacts for the funeral.  I did notice when the body was laid in the grave, a series of concrete slabs was laid over the top before the earth was replaced.

I don’t know for certain, but I am sure this death was the result of a car accident.   An Arab friend recently showed me a picture of a wrecked Fiat car driven by a teenager who was killed after a head on crash on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  If there is one practical thing that could be done between the Israeli government and Palestinian authority they could work together on improving road safety here.  I would like to see penalties for bad driving, people using phones at the wheel and other things which seem common here.   The fines could be invested back into improving roads and cutting accidents.

Road accidents kill more Israelis than terrorism and wars, so anything that can be done to make travel safer is good.  I took some time to discreetly pray for the family of the young lad who was buried today.

Akko – out and about

This beautiful arcade is what people imagine some of the most romantic parts of the Near East should looks like.

Sadly its off limits as they are mending the floor!  I would love too see these arches when bustling with people and with brightly coloured drapes hanging up and old Arab men sitting around chatting, drinking strong coffee and playing Sheshbash (Back Gammon)

Canaries are a very popular pet among Arab people and the cages are often outside in a shop or above seating in outside cafe.

Hello sir, can I help you?  My name is Mustafa, I am just filling in today as the canaries are on holiday.  Can I interest you some mint tea?

This little chap was one of the friendliest Cockatiels I have seen in a while, greeting me with song as a I walked past this shop.

This shop is run by Arabs and Jews together raising money to help disabled people.  The mottos on the Tshirts appear to be a bit suggestive but they are promoting using braille.

I like the interesting character of what things people keep in their yard.   Just like Jerusalem you see all kinds of things, this is a shop selling statues.

But this is just someone’s idea of a non conventional outdoor lounge it seems, complete with barber’s chair

The juice stand with a bit of a twist.

I am not sure if this is someone’s idea for a joke or a novel way to get a spare bedroom for guests to stay, but I saw this lifeboat (or is it a submarine?) complete with winch system ontop of a house!

Next, some sad events in Akko….

Akko – getting there

Oops, this was actually meant to be part one of Akko, not to worry…

The trains here in Israel are pretty good actually.  Cheap, comfortable and on time.

Many of the carriages here are double decker, similar to the ones I saw in the Netherlands quite some years ago where I went from Amsterdam to Utrecht.  Something impossible to operate in the UK given countless bridges and tunnels not having enough height.

Two changes are required, one at Haifa and one at a small town I don’t recall the name of.

After maybe a mile and half of walking from the station, I was coming near the beach…

Akko has been through many different owners, Arabs, Crusaders, French, Turkish, Egyptians, Romans and Greeks.

The Templar tunnels, not that long but worth the small 10 Shekel fee to visit.  Headroom gets a bit narrower as you go further…

Fans of the video game “Assassin’s Creed”‘ may like to know that this city was used as the location for the game.

Here Acre has a fun collection of passageways and alleys that are fun to explore.  Check out official site at www.akkanet.net (More Muslim slanted, Arabic only)  translation here

This link from Jerusalem Post has a good run down on Akko:- www.jpost.com/Travel/TravelNews/Article.aspx?id=176791

Akko – arriving at the old city

I took a trip to Akko, as this place is very rich in history, its just a brief train ride from Netanya too.   When leaving the station it looks fairly unremarkable apart from a sign on a hill and some palm trees, to get to the coast required about a mile and half of walking.

There was signs of bad weather in Netanya, here it seems the sea has been pretty fierce indeed.

Only a few miles down the road is Caesarea which part of the ancient Roman city walls are under the sea now, it seems its easy to underestimate the power of the Mediterranean!

Islamic worship places meets a fishing community.


Fishing is a big part of Akko, and the array of fish and shellfish was quite amazing.  I was quite tempted to get some prawns as I have not had any in a long time, they are strictly not kosher, so you won’t find them for sale in a Jewish city.   Take a closer look at what’s on this trader’s table…

Next I will show some interesting discoveries, treasures and sad events I experienced in this city.