Acre is a historic walled city dating back to the Phoenician period and today is an important focus of Israeli tourism. One of the oldest inhabited sites in the world, the city was once a strategic coastal link to the Levant. The city was captured during the First Crusade by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem, giving them a foothold in the region and access to trade. By 1130 the Crusader city was matched in size only by Jerusalem, and was attributed with making Jerusalem enormously wealthy. Acre served as the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the late 12th century became the seat of the Knights Hospitalier military order. The Ottomans captured the city in 1517 and later undertook ambitious building projects including the Jezzar Pasha Mosque.
The present day city has the character of a fortified town from the 18th and 19th century Ottoman centuries with a citadel, mosques, baths and khans. The Crusader town remains are almost intact at both below and above street level, giving visitors a vivid representation of the structure and layout of a medieval Crusader kingdom.
The Hospitaller Fortress can be found in the northwestern section of the city, next to the northern 12th century walls of the city. Today the remains of the first floor can be viewed including the refectory hall which contains an ancient underground passage. The Ministry of Defense’s Underground Prisoners Museum is situated above the archeological site. The prison was where Arabs who revolted against the British and Jews who fought in outlawed organizations like Hagana were incarcerated.
The Templar’s Tunnel
The Templar’s Tunnel is among one of the most fascinating Israeli sites. It was constructed in the late 12th century as a strategic underground route used by the Templar Monastery. At 350 meters long, it runs under the majority of the old Pisani Quarter of the city. The Jezzar Pasha Mosque, or White Mosque, is a prime example of Ottoman architecture and the largest Israeli mosque outside of Jerusalem, and was built in 1799.