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Acco Echoes to Days of Mandate

Photos by Emile Lieber

On one of the hottest days of the year so far – Wednesday, May 27 – 45 participants joined the Ramat Aviv ESRA Group for an interesting and inspiring day in the ancient city of Acre (Acco).

We were fortunate to have a young, intelligent, charming guide named Ori, who shared his wealth of knowledge, detailing the history and important historical figures of the sites we visited.

Our first stop was the Acco Underground Prisoners Museum, which is located on the grounds of the Acco fortress, built at the end of the 18th century by Daher el-Omar, the Bedouin ruler of the Galilee, on the ruins of Crusader structures built in the 12th century.

During the British Mandate, the fortress was used as the main prison in the northern part of Israel. Hundreds of members of the Haganah, Etzel and Lehi were imprisoned there alongside Arab and Jewish criminals.

In 1920, Zeev Jabotinsky, commander of the Jewish Defense unit in Jerusalem was imprisoned there together with 19 of his comrades, who defended the city during the 1920 anti-Jewish riots.

In 1939, 43 trainees of the Haganah platoon commanders' course of Yavniel, 10 Haganah members from Kibbutz Ginosar and 38 trainees of the Etzel command course at Mishmar Hayarden were imprisoned in this fortress.

On May 4, 1947, Etzel members broke into the prison in a daring action which had been coordinated with their imprisoned friends. Thirty of the Etzel members and 11 of the Lehi members managed to escape. Some members of the British police and military forces, along with 6 members of the freed prisoners, were killed during the fighting that erupted outside of the prison.

In addition, 8 prisoners who had escaped were captured, together with 5 members of the Etzel force, and executed by hanging.

The people who were executed included Shlomo Ben-Yosef, Mordekhai Schwartz, Dov Gruner, Yehiel-Dov Dressner, Eliezer Kashani, Mordekhai Alkahi, Yaakov Weiss, Avshalom Haviv and Meir Nakar.

Many of our Ramat Aviv members living in Ramat Aviv Gimel, live on streets that are named for many of these heroes

We experienced the trials and tribulations of the prisoners through film and a lecture by a museum guide, visiting the cells the inmates shared and listening to recordings which documented their traumatic experiences.

The values that guided their actions were Zionism and the love of the land, which were demonstrated by their heroism and sacrifice.

We left the museum with a much better understanding of the young men who fought so valiantly for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel.

We boarded the bus for a short ride to our next destination – the Tunisian Synagogue, Or Shalom. We had heard amazing reports about this synagogue from friends who had already visited it.

We too were overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of the mosaic artworks found on almost every wall, ceiling and floor throughout the building.

A visit to the Tunisian Synagogue was a highlight of the trip

The Tunisian Synagogue in Acco – known as the "Jariva" – is the only one of its kind in the world. It is covered with millions of mosaics, both inside and out. Each of its four floors proudly displays spectacular mosaics manufactured at Kibbutz Eilon – the outcome of 54 years of work.

The Synagogue boasts seven Torah arks, and houses hundreds of millions of natural stones from all over Israel. It has 140 stained glass windows and a dome.

The mosaics and stained-glass windows depict the history of the Jewish people and of the Land of Israel through Bible stories, flora and fauna, the IDF corps and more. Our eyes were everywhere taking in the beauty and detail that could be found up, down and all around.

One of the original members of the congregation spoke to us (with our guide translating) about the building, its history and the years of dedication and hard work that went into the edifice. Visiting the Tunisian Synagogue was definitely a highlight of our visit to Acco.

Our next stop was the shuk in Acco. Here we bought lunch and enjoyed spending time with our travel mates as we sat in small groups and relaxed.

Our final stop was the Al-Jazzar Mosque, which is known in Arabic as Jama El-Basha (the Pasha's Mosque).

This house of worship was also formerly known as Jama El-Anwar (the Mosque of Lights) according to the Vakfiye of Ahmed Al-Jazzar Pasha.

This is Israel's largest mosque outside of Jerusalem and the largest one among the mosques built in Israel during the Turkish period. The building dominates Acco's skyline to this very day.

Based on the Arabic inscription engraved over the front door, the mosque was inaugurated around 1781 AD (1196 according to the Hijra calendar, which begins with the emigration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina), in the early years of Al-Jazzar Pasha's rule in Acco.

The mosque houses the Sha'r an-Nabi, a hair (or lock of hair) from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad. The Sha'r an-Nabi used to be paraded through Acco on Eid al-Fitr, ending the fast of Ramadan, but is now only shown to the congregation. The relic is kept inside the mosque in a glass cabinet.

As it was getting late and the air was heavy with heat, we boarded the very welcoming air-conditioned bus to return home. We all felt enriched by our visit to Acco, having been overwhelmed by everything we had experienced during our most fulfilling visit.

Kudos to our guide Ori, and thank you to all participants who made this day so very special.



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Monday, 22 July 2024

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