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So on the second day of this past weekend, Adi, Eti, Justine, Théo, and I all got up early at Eti’s home in the outskirts of Haifa. We piled into her family’s Chevy minivan, and departed for the old city of Akko. Known as Acre during the Crusader times, it served as the headquarters for many of the crusading forces, as well as the major port city for incoming supplies and reinforcements. We arrived outside of the old city gates and were easily able to find parking because it was raining slightly. We started off our exploring by climbing up onto the “DANGER DO NOT CLIMB” walls of the harbor and looking out to the sea. We walked through the first actual shuk I have been to in Israel; there was not any sense of catering to tourism whatsoever, just the vibrant market for the local people and their families (which was a great experience). We walked over to the first of the sites we wanted to visit, the Templar’s Tunnel. This underground escape route was recently rediscovered by accident; a local woman called a plumber and complained about issues, and his resulting discoveries led him to look deeper, thus resulting in the excavation and partial renovation of the tunnels to allow people to walk through them. Being fairly tall, and walking through a fairly short tunnel, I did experience some difficulties in seeing the tunnel normally (a 60 degree tilt of the neck will do that), but it was still fascinating. The water flowing down channels at the edges of the tunnel was some of the most clear and clean looking water I have ever seen, which speaks really positively about the water usage of the city. We emerged out near the ancient port of Acre, and admired the ruins as well as the view of the sea.

Walking north along the sea, we eventually turned east and walked towards the prominent green-domed mosque of the city. Getting closer, it turns out that much of the courtyard and interior was under construction, and so we didn’t go in. We moved on towards the middle of the city, and walked into some very, very old gardens of predominantly ficus trees amongst other species. We inquired as to the other places to see in the city, and based on prices and the time we had to spend there, we ended up deciding on the Acre Citadel. A massive stone fortress of the Crusader era, it was later embellished and expanded by other invading forces. Among them was the British during the Mandate period post-WWI. This is important, as the Citadel served as the major prison for all of Palestine during that period, and thus saw the imprisonment of Zionist sympathizers and forces. The most prominent was named Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and many others were imprisoned with him. The courtyard and some of the cells have been renovated to look as they did almost 100 years ago, and that includes the Gallows Room (as photographed and featured here) where 9 Zionists were executed for their crimes against the Mandate government. For Israelis who visit the prison and exhibits there, there is a sense of reverence that I have seen some people in the US afford to monuments in the Capitol region, or perhaps that people might feel at Gettysburg, that one is present at a location that is integral to the current state of affairs in one’s country. After walking through the middle level of the prison, we went up to the top level to see an older film dramatizing one of the Zionists’ attempted escapes (and were unfortunately immersed in a sea of American Jewish girls, all of whom had a less-than-pleasant label denoting an extreme need for attention in English [I explained to my companions], Hebrew [as Eti explained to us], and French [as Théo pointed out]). The sort of people who go to a prison and then shout to their fake ‘friends”‘ “take a picture of me flashing gangster signs through the bars of a prison cell where people died LOL.” Not our sort of people, to put it very politely and mildly.

After seeing the movie in the prison, we quickly walked over to Said Hummus… which is the best hummus in the world, bar none. We waited for quite a long time, as it is widely acknowledged to be the best hummus available, but the wait was so, so, so very worth it. Like, 14 shekels (all of USD $3.75) for unlimited warm pita, fresh hummus, tomatoes, pickles, peppers, onions, and then either tea or black coffee at the end of the meal. Said is Arabic and a Muslim, but he is friends with a variety of rabbis and pastors, so he closes the place on Saturdays and is only open for half a day on Sundays. Other days of the week, he opens at 5 AM and then stays open only as long as his hummus supply lasts. Delicious stuff, and after eating [far more] than our fill, we departed for the car.

On the way to the car, though, we were interrupted by an unlikely and unexpected event. Coming through the narrow streets of the Akko shuk was a huge procession of wildly dancing Arabic men. Waiting a moment for them to approach, we realized that we were stuck in the middle of an Arabic wedding procession. Behind the two lines of dancing and clapping Arabic men (oddly, clapping with their arms held straight out; perhaps part of the tradition?). Behind them was the groom, in a shining suit and with a cape on horseback. His cape was one-of-a-kind, embroidered with Arabic writing on the back, and cut at a sweeping angle to allow it to flow even when he was on horseback. He was on horseback, and accompanied by so many people, as the tradition holds that the groom needs to go and retrieve his bride from her home. Behind him was a big old cart with speakers on it, and two harmonized soloists sang with microphones plugged into the cart. Behind the cart was a huge contingent of Muslim women, one of whom was keeping the quick beat of the procession on a drum, the rest of whom sang a complementary melody to those of the soloists, all of whom seemed extremely excited to be in the procession.

(In order to have the video be easily viewable, there is a separate post with links to the Youtube videos of the Arabic wedding procession here)

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  1. […] Posted in Uncategorized Due to the uncertainties of my Internet connection while I am here, I wasn’t able to post this video with the original post, where you can read more about what happened. […]

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