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History of Acre
 
Acre is probably to be identified with the Aak of the tribute-lists of Thutmoses III (c. 1500 B.C.), and it is certainly the Akka of the Amarna letters. To the Hebrews it was known as Akko, but it is mentioned only once in the Old Testament. Throughout the period of Hebrew domination, however, its political connections were always with Phoenicia rather than with the Philistines: thus, around 725 BC it joined Sidon and Tyre in a revolt against Shalmaneser V. It had a stormy experience during the three centuries preceding the Christian era.
 
The Greek and Roman periods
The Greek historians name it Ake (Josephus calls it also Akre); but the name was changed to Antiochia Ptolemais shortly after Alexander the Great's conquest, and then to Ptolemais, probably by Ptolemy Soter, after the partition of the kingdom of Alexander the Great.
Strabo refers to the city as once a rendezvous for the Persians in their expeditions against Egypt. About 165 BC Simon Maccabaeus defeated the Syrians in many battles in Galilee, and drove them into Ptolemais. About 153 BC Alexander Balas, son of Antiochus Epiphanes, contesting the Syrian crown with Demetrius, seized the city, which opened its gates to him. Demetrius offered many bribes to the Maccabees to obtain Jewish support against his rival, including the revenues of Ptolemais for the benefit of the Temple in Jerusalem, but in vain. Jonathan threw in his lot with Alexander, and in 150 BC he was received by him with great honour in Ptolemais. Some years later, however, Tryphon, an officer of the Syrians, who had grown suspicious of the Maccabees, enticed Jonathan into Ptolemais and there treacherously took him prisoner.
The city was also assaulted and captured by Alexander Jannaeus, by Cleopatra VII of Egypt and by Tigranes II of Armenia. Here Herod built a gymnasium, and here the Jews met Petronius, sent to set up statues of the emperor in the Temple, and persuaded him to turn back. St Paul spent a day in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). A Roman colonia was established at the city, Colonia Claudii Cæsaris.
 
Arab rule and the Crusades
The Arabs captured the city in 638 CE, and held it until the Crusaders conquered Acre in 1104. The Crusaders made the town their chief port in Palestine. It was re-taken by Saladin in 1187, besieged by Guy of Lusignan in 1189 at the Siege of Acre, and again captured by Richard the Lionheart in 1191. It then became the capital of the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1229 it was placed under the control of the Knights Hospitaller (whence came one of its alternative names). It was the final stronghold of the Crusader state, and fell to a bloody siege to the Mameluks in 1291. The Ottomans under Sultan Selim I captured the city in 1517, after which it fell into almost total decay. Maundrell in 1697 found it a complete ruin, save for a khan (caravanserai) occupied by some French merchants, a mosque and a few poor cottages.
The Crusaders called the city "Acre" or "Saint-Jean d'Acre" since they mistakenly identified it with the Philistine city of Ekron, in southern Israel (Tel Miqne-Ekron).
 
Ottoman rule
Towards the end of the 18th century Acre revived under the rule of Dhaher El-Omar, the local sheikh: his successor, Jezzar Pasha, governor of Damascus, improved and fortified it, but by heavy imposts secured for himself all the benefits derived from his improvements. About 1780 Jezzar peremptorily banished the French trading colony, in spite of protests from the French government, and refused to receive a consul.
In 1799 Napoleon, in pursuance of his scheme for raising a Syrian rebellion against Turkish domination, appeared before Acre, but after a siege of two months (March–May) was repulsed by the Turks, aided by Sir Sidney Smith and a force of British sailors. Having lost his siege cannons to Smith, Napoleon attempted to lay siege to the walled city defended by Ottoman troops on 20 March 1799, using only his infantry and small-caliber cannons, a strategy which failed, leading to his retreat two months later on May 21.
Jezzar was succeeded on his death by his son Suleiman, under whose milder rule the town advanced in prosperity till 1831, when Ibrahim Pasha besieged and reduced the town and destroyed its buildings. On November 4, 1840 it was bombarded by the allied British, Austrian and French squadrons, and in the following year restored to Turkish rule.
 
The British Mandate
The citadel of Acre was used by the British as a prison mainly for political prisoners, and as a location for a gallows. Jewish underground movement activists, such as Zeev Jabotinsky and Shlomo Ben-Yosef, an Irgun activist, were jailed in the citadel-prison of Acre. Ben-Yosef was the first Jew to be executed under the British mandate. According to the first census after the British rule over Acre, the province's population was 100,000 inhabitants, most of whom were Shiite Turks, Turkomans, Azeris, Persians, Bosnians, Albanians, and Circassians as well as a small community of Greeks. It included the modern cities of Sidon, Tyre, Nabatiye, Nahariyya, and some other inner villages and towns such as Umm al-Faraj, Mazra'a, Dayr al-Qassi.
On May 4, 1947, the Irgun broke into the Acre citadel prison in order to release Jewish activists imprisoned there by the British. Some 255 inmates escaped. Twenty-seven prisoners from armed Jewish groups escaped. In the immediate aftermath of the raid, nine were killed, five attackers and eight escapees were captured. Despite the heavy toll in human lives, the action was described by foreign journalists as "the greatest jail break in history".
 
Israeli rule
Acre fell under territory assigned by the 1947 UN Partition Plan to a future Arab State in Palestine. The plan was rejected by the Palestinian Arabs. The town was captured by the Jewish Haganah on May 17 1948, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. About three-fourths of its Arab population (1944 est. pop. 13,000) fled from the city during this time.
The old city of Acre has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and contains a tunnel leading to a 13th century fortress of the Knights Templar. Since the 1990s, there are vast works of archeological excavations and preservations of ancient structures in progress. Acre has one of the higher proportions of non-Jews of any of Israel's cities with roughly 27.6 percent Arab and Druze population, as well as a smaller minority of Bahá'ís. The city is a magnet for tourists and the home of the country's steel industry. It also produces exports including iron, chemicals, and textiles.
 
 
*Info courtesy of akko.org  


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