[Mom – September 21, 2019 – Another day in Israel led to some very interesting experiences for Shane, Janice and me. We started our day at Bet She’arim National Park, another World Heritage Center. It includes a network of 300 underground catacombs, the largest of its type in Israel and one of the densest burial compounds in the Roman world. This is an important ancient Jewish cemetery featuring a great variety of architectural burial styles. Although it was a very solemn and sacred place, the always fun loving Shane could not keep himself from crawling in a couple of the sarcophagus.
Our next stop was the town of Akko, another World Heritage Site. This was the last stronghold of the Crusaders. While there we visited the Hall of the Crusader Knights, Tunnel of the Templars, and a 1700s Bath House. We walked along the Mediterranean Sea Wall and had ice cream at one of the restaurants overlooking the sea.]
As we start talking about the third week of the trip I took with my parents in September to show them the Holy Land, we are once again seeing another World Heritage Site between Nazareth and Haifa, which is only around 30 miles apart. This is the fourth one we will be seeing, as we saw three yesterday, and this one might be my favorite of them all. Bet She’arim National Park is a complex of 21 catacombs carved into the rocky hills and have impressive facades at the entrance. These all date to around the 1st-3rd century AD and are stuffed full of sarcophagus as my mother said. Some of them are plain, but others are artistically decorated. All in all this amazing site will take around an hour to explore, but it is so worth it.
As mom stated above, the next stop for us (and where we spent most of our day) was the town of Acre, locally called Akko, and I was very excited to show them this town as I had stumbled upon during my last visit to Israel when I boarded the wrong bus. Turns out this was a blessing in disguise as this was the last stronghold during the Crusader period of history. While the town has been continuously inhabited for 4000 years it this period and beyond that there is a lot left to see. In order of my favorites they are:
Hall of the Crusader Knights – Under the citadel excavations revealed a complex of halls built by the Hospitallers Knights. The complex includes six semi-joined halls, a large hall, dungeon, dining room, the Church of Saint George, residential quarters, marketplaces, and streets.
Tunnel of the Templars – An underground tunnel connecting the citadel to the port. The coolest part is that it was only discovered in 1994 and you can walk through it.
Hammam al-Basha – This Turkish bath was built in 1795 and ran until 1950. Now it is a museum with a humorous retelling of Akko’s history and the bathhouse experience.
City wall – It is fun to walk along the city wall on the sea side and you might find local kids jumping into the waters 40 feet or so down.
Khan el Umdan – an inn enclosing a courtyard that was used by caravans for accommodation built in 1785. Khans are a unique middle eastern structure and this is the largest in Akko, but sadly it is closed.
Great Mosque of al-Jezzar – Built in 1781, it is one of the largest mosques in Israel. In a shrine on the second level, a single hair from the prophet Mohammed’s beard is kept.
The Shrine of Baha’u’llah – The holiest place for the religion of Baha’i