1 Tel Akko and the ancient settlement
On the ancient tell east of present-day Akko, Old Akko existed from the third half of the third millennium BC, while fortifying the place in the Middle Bronze Age.
It is clear that the whole area was under the rule of David, and Solomon traded in the area and its produce with Hiram king of Tyre. Apparently, the Phoenicians, inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon and the northern coastal plain took over the whole area and pushed the members of the Asher tribe to the mountain.
The Phoenicians did not trade in the port of Akko, nor did they belong to the Asher tribe. At the beginning of the Hellenistic period, around 280 BC, the center of the settlement moved west, to the plain between the ancient tell and the present-day Akko Peninsula.
The important status of Akko is also mentioned in the Egyptian “Execration texts” and mourning literature in the north, on the main roads in the north of the country, through the existence of the city in the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, and it is probably Akko mentioned in the Bible only once in its explicit name – ” Akko and the inhabitants of Sidon…and the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out ” (Judges 1: 5), although the territory was promised to the tribe of Zebulun.
Later traditions tell of the tomb of Deborah the prophetess in Akko, and of the tomb of Amnon the eldest son of David in the place. There is also a legend about King Solomon’s daughter kept in a high tower in Akko…
Concerning the donations for the construction of the Second Temple, when the city is still on the tell, but the port is far from it on the beach, the Gemara says:
Nicanor – Miracles were performed at his doors. They said: When Nicanor went to fetch doors from Alexandria of Egypt, on his return a tidal wave returned to him by nature, they took one of them (from the doors) and threw it into the sea and still the sea did not rest from its fury. Asked to throw (to the sea) her friend (the second door) he stood (Nicanor) and bound. And he said unto them, Take heed to yourselves. Immediately the sea rested in frustration. And was sorry for her friend. Since he arrived at the port of Akko, it would protrude and come out from under the sides of the ship… “(Babylonian, Yoma, 51: 1)
2 The Hasmoneans in Akko
The Hasmoneans and leaders of the Jewish state of the Second Temple arrive in Akko: Shimon pursues his enemies to the gates of Akko and Jonathan is killed by Tryphon at the city gate,… Alexander Yanai also arrives here.
In the Great Revolt, the Roman commander Vespasian arrives at the port of Akko, he will later lay siege to Jerusalem and his son Titus will burn the Temple.
The Sanhedrin, after the Temple destruction and after the Council of Yavne, moves to the Galilee and its leaders, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Yehuda, and his son Rabban Gamliel visit Akko and leave their records there.
The Sages of Israel also come to Akko and at least fifteen of them are known to us by their names (R. Yossi and R. Yanai, R. Abba of Akko, R. Hoshea ben Levi, R. Abu and R. Yossi ben Hanina and more). In the Byzantine period in Akko, we find Jacob in the synagogue in the port as well as a Samaritan community hostile to the Jews of Akko.
Among the Jews of Akko of the early Muslim period there are those who engaged in trade, and the memory of these comes in the writings of the Cairo Geniza: Aharon HaCohen ben Marion of Akko, and the Al-Aqawi family.
The Crusader occupation changes everything…
3 Great rabbis in Akko
The great port, the trade routes, the great economic development of Akko, and the possibility of reaching the holy places inland, guided many Jews to come to Akko.
Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela (1170) finds three judges at the head of an orderly community and after years Maimonides, who immigrated to Israel, in Akko, with his father and uncle as well as his son and family, maintained correspondence and friendship with one of these judges and even with his son who served after him.
In the 13th century, groups of rabbis (300 from France and England) come to Crusader Akko, R. Yechiel of Paris at the head of his yeshiva and more. Maimonides delivers an important sermon in Akko, with many Sages among his listeners. Maimonides’ grandson is also in Akko, where the debate for and against Maimonides and his teachings develops.
When Akko fell to the Muslims in 1291, the son of the Ramban was staying in town.
4 The fate of the Jews during the First Crusade
The first Crusade was launched with the slogan “Save the Holy Sepulcher from the Infidels”. Of course, the declared trend was to reach Jerusalem and control it instead of the Muslims. On their way the Christian crusaders found “infidels” closer to them, not Muslims but their Jewish neighbors so far.
In this way, many Jewish communities were eliminated, the most prominent of which were the” Schum” communities in the Rhine Valley: the communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz. These exterminations and strange deaths on “Kiddush Hashem” that were held in these communities, were nicknamed “Rhineland massacres” according to the Hebrew date.
Many lamentations have been added to these decrees, as well as the “Father of Mercy” prayer, which has been said since then, for over 900 years in the Ashkenazi communities.
Even under Crusader rule in the country, many Jews were killed. Although it should be noted that it was during the battles and the riots of the war.
With the end of the fighting, the killings also ceased and many Jews found their place under Crusader rule.
5 Akko Fortress, Akko Prison
The fortress of Akko served as a prison even before the British Mandate. Under Ottoman rule, as early as 1859, about 40 rebels from among the army commanders were imprisoned here. In 1875, Baháʼu’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, was imprisoned here.
The British continued to use the fortress as a prison and imprisoned here Jabotinsky and his soldiers and the Haganah fighters who defend Jews during the Arab riots of 1920. During British rule, many Irgun and Lehi fighters were imprisoned in the fortress and 8 of them were even hanged here…
On May 4, 1947, the Irgun fighters broke into the prison, blowing up its walls and releasing Jewish fighters.
The cells of the prisoners, the room in which Baha Ulla and Ze’ev Jabotinsky were imprisoned, as well as the gallows room and the death row rooms tell in silence the story of their heroism.
6 Defining the area of Akko
On the territory from Akko and to the north, there is a halakhic debate as to whether it is part of the Land of Israel or considered abroad.
“The walk from Akko to Kziv on our right, to the east of the road – is pure because it is the ‘Land of the Nations’ and obligatory in tithes and in Shmita (Sabbatical year)”(Talmud Yerushalmi Sheviit)
In other words, the road from Akko to the north, in the direction of Kziv-Achziv, is a boundary line between the Land of Israel located east of the road and the “Land of the Nations”, ie abroad, located west of the road, between the road and the sea.
On the other hand, an interesting midrash tells of Avraham Avinu when he arrives in Eretz Yisrael, from the north, he ascends the ridge of Hanikra, ‘Ladder of Tyre’, and from there overlooks the entire valley of Akko, and the entire land –
- Levi said while Avraham was walking in Aram Naharayim and Aram Nahor, he saw them eating and drinking and reckless.
He said: I wish I had no part in this country. And since he had reached the ‘Ladder of Tyre’ he saw them engaged in weeding at weeding time, hoeing at hoeing time. He said: If only my portion will be in this country. The Blessed One said to him: ‘I will give this land to your seed’ (Genesis 10: 10)
7 The bathhouses (Hammams) in Akko
In the Old City of Akko there are now several inactive bathhouses (hammams). In the past, too, there were bathhouses in Akko that have not yet been discovered. The Gemara in the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Avodah Zara) tells about one of them “Bath of Aphrodite
Proclos, son of a philosopher, asked Rabban Gamaliel in Akko, when he was bathing in the bathhouse of Aphrodite. He said to him, “It is written in your Torah ‘Let nothing that is proscribed stick to your hand’. Why are you bathing in the bathhouse of Aphrodite?”
He said to him, “One does not answer questions in the bathhouse.” And when he left he said to him, “I did not come into her domain, she came into mine. They do not say the bath was made as an adornment for her, but rather that Aphrodite was made as an adornment for the bath.
Rabban Gamliel, ‘Nasi’ of the Sanhedrin and its spiritual leader, bathes in a bathhouse in Akko where a statue of the goddess Aphrodite stands. He was asked why he was bathing there, since the statue of the goddess was standing in the bath. After coming out of the bath, Rabban Gamliel gave a very profound and liberal halakhic answer in her conception: she, Aphrodite, came into my domain!
The bath is not an ornament and beauty for the goddess, the statue of the goddess is not used at all for foreign worship, but it stands in the bath as “ornamental for the bath”, as only a beautiful decoration, and there is no prohibition on bathing in such a bath.
8 The breaking point from Akko Prison
The British government imprisoned in the Akko prison many of the underground fighters of the Irgun, Haganah and Lehi. The prison was protected by many guards, extensive combat equipment, checkpoints and military installations and a hostile Arab population around it.
In April 1947, 163 Jews and 460 Arabs with a criminal background were imprisoned there.
The planning of the break-in and the release of the prisoners took time and was examined in all its aspects.
The break-in was set for Sunday, the day of rest and leave for the British, May 4, 1947, at 4:20 p.m. In addition to the explosives that had already been smuggled ahead of time into the prisoners ‘cells, and explosive charges prepared from them, break-in force, blockages and deception were prepared.
At the designated time, at the point connecting the Hammam al-Pasha and the prison wall, the large explosive device exploded between the two windows and at the same time the prisoners blew up two iron gates inside the prison compound – and fled to freedom.
41 pre-determined Jewish prisoners managed to escape, and even 214 Arab prisoners escaped from prison.
During the retreat, one of the forces encountered a British unit that heard the shots and explosions and blocked the retreat axis on the Akko-Haifa road.
Despite the many casualties (9 killed and 11 captured) a large proportion of those released managed to escape from prison. The operation was extensively described in the world media, and even sounded like “heroes of the national military organization who broke through the wall that even Napoleon failed to break.” This action further weakened the power of the British in the country and hastened their departure on 14.5.1948 – the day of the declaration of the establishment of the state.
9 Haim Farhi, Minister of Finance of Al-Jazzar
Ahmad Al-Jazzar, the ruler (Pasha) of Akko from 1775-1804, had a Jewish senior adviser and finance minister, named Haim Farhi. His great help, especially in the economic and financial field, raised Akko from the status of an important and central city in the days of Dahar al-Omar, to the capital of the entire Galilee.
Among Ahmad Jazzar’s projects, run by Haim Farhi, was the construction of a large mosque, like the large mosques of Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
The mosque was built in the center of Akko, on the remains of the great church, which was here earlier in the days of the Crusaders, from which the large cisterns below the mosque’s courtyard survived.
Another project run by Haim Farhi, Jazzar’s adviser, was the construction of an aqueduct that leads to Akko the waters of the Kabri springs.
The help of Chaim Farhi is of great importance to Jazzar Pasha during Napoleon’s siege of the city. Akko’s resistance to Napoleon’s armies indicates proper construction of the walls and proper management of the course of the siege and battle on the part of the besieged.
10 The work of Haim Farhi
Haim Farhi was the son of Rabbi Shaul Farhi, the Minister of Finance of the Pasha in Damascus. Ahmad Al-Jazzar took him to be his adviser and finance minister when he was appointed to be the Akko Pasha. Farhi’s much help to Jazzar and the proper management of the Akko economy made it the capital of the Galilee.
Haim Farhi remained loyal to Jazzar Pasha even when he was cruelly treated : he uprooted one of his eyes, cut off one of his ears and his nose.
Farhi’s much help stood for Ahmad Al-Jazzar while he was under severe siege by Napoleon’s army over Akko. Despite the long siege (March 19 – May 20, 1799) and the use of cannons and attempts to create a breach in the wall by Napoleon’s army, Ahmad Al-Jazzar, with the help of his Jewish adviser Haim Farhi, managed to withstand the siege until Napoleon left the area. Even after that, Farhi continued to advise Ahmad Al-Jazzar until Jazzar’s death in 1804.
Haim Farhi remained loyal to the rulers of Akko until he was assassinated 15 years later.
11 The Story of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
“And here it sounds the Frenchman (Napoleon) has arrived… and he was compelled to come to the city of Akko and be there on the Sabbath… and there in the city there was great fear because there was a force of many of the Ishmaelites and the city wall was closed.”
- Nachman and his servant found themselves imprisoned in Akko besieged by Napoleon. Although they rented a ship to escape, the commotion and hustle and bustle in the besieged city did not allow them to reach it.
“And suddenly there was a great noise. An order came from the Pasha (Ahmad Al-Jazzar) that gives an extension of only two hours.
“He who does not know the tricks of war will flee to the sea, because there is no gate open only through the sea, and if not then the Ishmaelites will slaughter him because they would like to make an expansion in the city so they wanted to slaughter those who are there…”.
In the great commotion they managed to escape and board one of the ships. Only at sea did it become clear to them that they had boarded a ship surrounded by cannons, i.e. a warship. Although they escaped the siege of Akko, they were considered prisoners of war. On the island of Rhodes, they were redeemed and only after the upheavals and hardships of another year, did they return home.
12 Arriving in Acre also by land ...
Unlike many pilgrims who arrive in the Land of Israel through the great port of Akko, many Jews also arrive there by land. Among them: Rabbi Yehuda Alharizi, Minister Haim Farhi and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
Rabbi Yehuda AlHarizi (1216), who wrote a poem about Akko in his “Tachkemoni” (Chapter 22):
1-“And go up to Akko and say,
I am the keystone
And my land is the Holy Land
Because I am the Lily of the Sharon
And around me the Carmel and Lebanon
And Tavor and Hebron
And carry her own and say:
I, Akko, I am the glory of every country
And the Carmel around me with Lebanon…
2-Minister Haim Farhi, financial adviser to Jazzar Pasha, Governor of Akko. He came to Akko from Damascus as the son of Rabbi Shaul Farhi, the Minister of Finance of the Pasha of Damascus. Rabbi Chaim Farhi helped Jazzar Pasha manage the financial affairs of the restoration of Akko, the installation of the famous aqueduct to the city, as well as other projects. Among other things, he stood on the days of the Pasha during the great siege that Napoleon laid on Akko. His loyalty to Al-Jazzar helped him do good to the Jews in Akko and its environs.
Rabbi Yosef Schwartz wrote about him in “Tevuot Ha’aretz”:
His house was wide open, reciprocating kindness and benefiting all, loved above and nice below, the abundance of his grace upon all the inhabitants of the land, our brethren the children of Israel did not know at that time enemies and judges, that he stood in the breach, and all that he commanded and decreed upon all the governors of the land – Ishmaelites did do, and they (the Jews) will have a discount from every tax and so on. Despite his loyalty, Jazzar Paha cut off one of his ears, removed one of his eyes and snatched his nose, and nevertheless he remained loyal to him.
3- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1799), great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, visited Israel from 1798-1799. Because of a storm at sea, he went down to the beach in Haifa and not in Jaffa and stayed there until after Sukkot 1798. At the request of the Hasidim in Tiberias, he moved there until ” And here it sounds the Frenchman (Napoleon) has arrived… And was forced to come to the city of Akko and be there on Shabbat… and there in the city there was great fear because there was a force of many of the Ishmaelites and the retreat of the city wall… “R. Nachman and his servant found themselves imprisoned in Akko besieged by Napoleon. Only after much effort he was released and after hardships he managed to get out of Akko, by sea.
13 The Jews in Akko under Crusader rule
Under Crusader rule (1104-1291) in Akko, many Jews came to it, including Jews from France:
300 rabbis from France and England (1211)
Rabbi Yechiel of Paris with his yeshiva “Midrash HaGadol” de Paris (1258)
- Shlomo “Petit” (1286)
It is not known exactly where these Jews settled in Crusader Akko, but they probably settled in a French-speaking area and in a society familiar with them from their country of origin.
It can be suggested, with great caution, that the area where they settled was near where there is today an inscription in the Provencal dialect that says “Oh passers-by on the street, I asked you, please pray for the soul of Ebola Fazi, the builder of this church.” The round inscription is fixed in the central mezuzah of one of the windows to the left of the entrance to the a-Ramel Mosque (a-Shahbi). The inscription can be seen in the store.
14 The Jewish neighborhood in the Ottoman period
The Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Old Akko is known throughout the Ottoman period (1516-1918). During this period, and even after that, at least until the escape of the Jews from Akko in the events of 1936, orderly community institutions existed. Among other things, the Akko Jewish community, like other Jewish communities in the country, had a bathhouse, as is customary in Eastern cities.
This bathhouse was very similar to ordinary bathhouses, both in its form and use. The uniqueness of this bath, belonging to the Jewish community of Akko, was in its additional use, the religious-halakhic use: mikveh tehara (ritual purity bath). This indicates the religious level of the members of the community in Akko.
15 A continuous Jewish community in Akko
A continuous Jewish community in Old Akko is known from ancient times and especially throughout the Ottoman period (1516-1918), and even later under the rule of the British Mandate, until the escape of the Jews of Akko in the events of 1936.
In the neighborhood where the members of the community, its leaders and sages lived, stood the residences as well as the various community institutions: “Ahab” Synagogue, “Ohel Haim” Synagogue and more. A “Jewish” bathhouse was also nearby, which was used not only for bathing, but also as a mikveh tahara (ritual purity bath). Despite living together with their Muslim neighbors, Akko Jews sometimes suffered persecution and conflict. It is known that the “Ahab” Synagogue was expropriated from the community and converted into a mosque. In return, the community received a smaller structure. The peak of the harassment of the community was in the events of 1936, when Akko Jews were forced to flee their homes, where they had lived for hundreds of years. Akko Jews returned to it only upon liberation in the War of Independence in 1948. Most of them went to the new city and only a few went back within the walls of Old Akko.
16 Dwelling in Akko and burial in Kfar Yassif
The issue of cemeteries in Akko is complicated: the community in Akko probably had a cemetery near the city, seemingly in its eastern area, near “Tel al-Fukhar” – Tel Napoleon.
However, the halakhic debate as to whether Akko is within the Land of Israel led Jews from the Akko community, who wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel “literally”, to prefer not to be buried in the community cemetery in Akko, but in other cemeteries. This is known about Akko Jews who were buried in the Jewish cemetery “at the foot of Mount Carmel” as well as about Akko Jews who were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Kfar Yassif.
A Jewish community in Kfar Yassif has been known since the beginning of the 16th century and the burial of Akko Jews in Kfar Yassif at least from 1744 to 1929. It is possible that they were buried here before. It is clear that among the buried were Jews from the village itself as well as refugees from Safed. The big question is what did Akko Jews, with their own cemetery, see being buried in this small village?
During the Mamluk rule it probably had a tribunal and community institutions. Decline and depletion in the situation of the entire region in the 17th century also affected Kfar Yassif Jews. But in the 18th century, economic prosperity returned to the western Galilee, and with it a new Jewish settlement boom in Kfar Yassif. Together with R. Chaim Ben Atar (the holy “Light of Life”), his student R. Avraham Yishmael Singviniti passed through Kfar Yassif, and he describes:
“And that village is already called “Yeshiv”… with great satiety and is from the Land of Israel and acts like the Land of Israel itself, and we found there like ten homeowners and they sit well and in great freedom… and give tithes and burn the donation, and this year they do not sow because it is Shmita… and do not ask respect for themselves. ”
Within this wave of settlement, a number of figures should be noted: Rabbi Moshe Malki, one of the leaders of the Safed community, is coming to Akko.
In those years, the Ramchal, as well as Rabbi Shlomo Abadi from the Safed rabbis, were also in Akko.
We find all of them in Kfar Yassif as well, and there is probably an attempt to establish here a Kabbalistic Torah Center. This momentum may have something to do with the renewal of the Jewish settlement in Tiberias by R. Chaim Abulafia (1740) and with Daher Al-Omar’s call for Jews to settle in his territories in the Galilee.
There is evidence of a Jewish community in the village of Kfar Yassif both in the 19th and there is evidence of the Jewish cemetery in Kfar Yassif between the years 1744-1929. They may have been buried here before as well. It is clear that among the buried were Jews from the village itself as well as refugees from Safed. The big question is what did the Jews of Akko, with their own cemetery, see being buried in this small village?
The answer is given in light of the halakhic debate as to whether Akko is part of the Land of Israel or abroad. Those of Akko Jews who wanted to be buried in the “Land of Israel” preferred that their relatives carry them for burial outside Akko: “at the foot of Mount Carmel” or in Kfar Yassif. There are two other parallels to this phenomenon from Sidon Jews who wanted to be buried in the “Land of Israel “, in Nabi Sajud, about an 8-hour walk from Sidon, as well as from Hatzavia Jews who asked not to be buried there because it was “abroad” and were buried across the Hasbani River.
Among those buried here are:
1 – Rabbi Moshe Malki, one of the leaders of the Safed community who moved to Akko and was buried in Kfar Yassif before 1747.
2 – Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal), one of the Kabbalists of Italy who came to Israel and lived in Akko. We know that he died in the midst of the plague, between the years 1744-1747.Although there is a single testimony about his tomb in Tiberias, where there is also a large tombstone bearing his name, we support those who claim that his burial place, according to other evidence and logical analysis, is precisely in the Jewish cemetery in Kfar Yassif, near his friend R. Moshe Malki.
17 Ramchal in Akko
Before the arrival of Ramchal in Akko in 1743, the community had a synagogue called the “Knesset of Ahab”. It was described by R. Avraham Ishmael Singviniti, a student of R. Chaim Iben Attar. This synagogue was taken from the Jews and turned into a mosque. In return, the community received another simple-looking structure, and with the encouragement and help of Ramchal, R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, turned it into a synagogue, called “Ohel Chaim”, named after Ramchal, who died before its renovation was completed, and after R. Chaim Farhi, one of the leaders of the community in the next generation.
The synagogue is a transverse structure, the entrance in the narrow dimension facing east to the alley, while the shrine (the Ark) facing Jerusalem stands in the center of the southern wall.
According to the architectural tradition of the synagogues in Italy, from which the Ramchal came, the Bima on which is read the Torah was placed, not in the center of the synagogue space, as is customary in Sephardic and Ashkenazi synagogues, but next to the wall in front of the sanctuary wall. The interior of the synagogue, not only continues the architectural tradition of synagogues in Italy in general, but preserves the shape of two synagogues in the city of Padua in Italy, the hometown of Ramchal: the Sephardic synagogue (Scuola Spaniola) and the Italian synagogue (Scuola Italiana) and the shape of the Luzzatto yeshiva, under the Valentine Synagogue in Venice.
18 Haim Farhi house
This house was the home of Haim Farhi, the senior adviser and finance minister of Ahmad Al-Jazzar Pasha of Akko.
Haim Farhi was the son of Shaul Farhi, the Minister of Finance of Damascus. Haim Farhi was awarded the title of “Mualem”, a high degree given to non-Muslims. Around a special wing in his house, “Dar al-Muallem”, Akko Jews were concentrated and the area became the Jewish neighborhood.
Haim Farhi helped and supported the Jews of Akko and its surroundings and helped to direct the students of the Gaon from Vilna who immigrated to Eretz Israel to Safed.
Haim Farhi greatly assisted Jazzar Pasha in building the aqueduct to Akko and in managing the city during Napoleon siege. With Jazzar’s death in 1804, Farhi helped Suleiman Pasha, Jazzar’s adopted son come to power and remain in office.
Haim Farhi raised at his home Abdullah, the orphaned son of one of Suleiman Pasha’s ministers, and with Suleiman’s death in 1819, Abdullah was appointed to Akko and the Galilee. Disputes in the courtyard and plots by a French engineer against Chaim Farhi turned Abdullah’s heart, and here, on the steps of his house, his servants strangled R. Chaim Farhi on the eve of Rosh hodesh Elul 1920 (August 20, 1819).
19 Akko and its surroundings from the journey of R. Chaim Abulafia
In 1740, Rabbi Chaim Abulafia re-established the Jewish community in Tiberias, and at the same time out of redemption intentions, Rabbi Chaim Iben Attar (“Or Chaim”) organized a group to establish a yeshiva called “Knesset Israel” in Jerusalem. Among the group of students who immigrated to Israel with him is also R. Avraham Ishmael Chai Singviniti from Modina.
In Heshvan 1741, he sends a letter to his father in which he describes his journey and Akko and its surroundings. Among other things, he writes.
“… And we returned to Akko. And outside the wall of Akko, on the border of the beginning of the Land of Israel there is a large and high synagogue, and formerly when the city was new it was inside the city, now that the city is destroyed it is outside the city, and it has twelve windows and every window like the entrance of the synagogue of Livorno, and it is called the ” Synagogue of Ahab “, and it is still called” the Knesset of Ahab “, in which Ahab would have prayed the king…”
The mention of this synagogue in Akko is unique in Singviniti’s letter.
A few years later the synagogue was taken from the Jewish community and turned into a mosque. In return, the community received a much smaller nearby building, and it became the” Ohel Chaim” synagogue with the help of the Ramchal, R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto.
20 Akko an important port city, the Rabbis who came by sea
1 – Maimonides, R. Moshe ben Maimon and his family, who immigrated to Israel in 1165. His father Maimon, and perhaps even his son Avraham and other members of the family, probably also came with Maimonides. Here, in Akko, Maimonides forms friendships with Rabbi Yefet son of Rabbi Eliyahu the Dayan and stays with him in correspondence, and later with his son, even when Maimonides is in Egypt.
2 – Rabbi Binyamin of Tudela, the great traveler who describes Akko around the year 1170 – and from there (from the city of Tyre) one day to Akri, i.e. Akko, which was on the border of Asher, and is the beginning of the Land of Israel, and it sits on the Great Sea and the name of the Great Port to all the Lost (Gentiles) who go (arrive) to Jerusalem by ship and descend before it the river called Nahal Kedumim, and there like two hundred Jews headed by R. Tzadok and R. Yefet and R. Yona.
3 – Rabbi Petachiah of Regensburg tells of Akko in about 1180: and there are Jews in Akko. And in Akko there is a spring that springs every six days and on Shabbat there is not a single drop in it…
21 Akko, Capital of the Crusader kingdom, more rabbis arrive in the city
If in the 12th century Akko was “only” the main port city to the “Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem” as its capital was Jerusalem, then in the 13th century, after the fall of Jerusalem to the Muslims, Akko became the capital of the Crusader kingdom in Israel. Under this rule many Jews continue to immigrate to the Land of Israel and among them we will mention the
1- R. Rabbi Yeshaya MiTrani (1210)
2 – Rabbi Shimshon Bar Avraham of Speyer (1211) who lives in Akko and we also find his son and grandson in the city.
3 – A group of 300 rabbis (1211) from England and France who make a significant contribution to the Jewish community in Akko and to the world of Torah.
4 – Rabbi Shem Tov son of Yitzchak of Tortosa and his son Yitzchak (1226)
5 – Rabbi Yechiel from Paris, who immigrated to Eretz Israel with the entire Yeshiva of Paris (1258) and established the “Midrash HaGadol de Paris” in Akko.
6 – Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman (the Ramban) (1267), arrives at the port of Akko, continues to renew the Jewish settlement in Jerusalem and even continues to the tomb of Rachel and Hebron. He returns to Akko and on Rosh Hashanah carries on in the synagogue his great sermon. The grandson of the Ramban was in Akko when it fell to the Muslims in 1291.
22 R. Moshe Ben Nachman
In the summer of 2767 (1267), Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, the head of the community in Barcelona, Spain, also arrives in the Crusader Akko. On his way to Jerusalem, which is under Muslim rule, he passes the checkpoint and border at Tell Keisan, on the way from Akko to Jenin and from there to Jerusalem.
During the year he will visit Jerusalem and renew the Jewish settlement there, continue to the tomb of Rachel and Hebron and return to Akko for Rosh Hashanah.
At the border point, the Ramban loses his personal stamp, engraved on it …
Moshe Bar (son of) Nachman’ Nan’ (‘rest in peace’, like ‘the late’ today) Girondi (from the city of Girona in Spain, his family also lived there) strong (blessing of success).
Examination of the seal, the wording, the letters, the lack of decorations and the material from which the seal was cast, lead the researchers to define its degree of originality as the highest.
23 The Ramban in Akko
“God bless you so far, that I was privileged and came to Akko and found there in the hand of the elders of the land (the Jews) a decorated silver coin- a seal. On one side like an almond stick, on the other side like a saucer and on both sides around a well-developed script (clear script but could not read it). And the inscription was showed to the Kutim (Samaritans, residents of Akko) and they immediately read it because he was a Hebrew script which remained for the Kutim as mentioned in the Sanhedrin Tractate, an ancient Hebrew script in the Samaritan version…
And they read on one side “Shekel Shekalim” (should be “Shekel Yisrael”) and on the other side “Holy Jerusalem” and they said that the shapes (the designs on the coin) are from the stick of Aaron, almonds and flowers, and the second shape the Manna jar (there are other opinions as well). And we weighed it at the tables (at “shulhani”, a money changer) and it weights ten sterling silver which are half the ounce mentioned by our Rabbi Shlomo (Rashi). And I also saw from that coin and in that writing half its weight (half a shekel), and it is the half shekel that was being weighed for the sacrifices (in the Temple) and here we were aided great help by the words of our Rabbi Shlomo (Rashi).
.(The Ramban brings archaeological evidence according to Rashi’s commentary)
We found that the Ramban was also interested in the physical aspects of the land, including ancient coins and in this small example – what is designed on the coins, what is written on them and in what writing, what is their weight and of course how all this can add to understanding the Torah, Halacha, and ancient commentators. Furthermore, we learn that apart from the population mentioned (Christian and probably also Muslim), in Akko of the late 13th century, there are both Jews and Kutim, the halakhic nickname for a Samaritan.
24 The Ramban in Akko
On Rosh Hashanah, the Ramban delivers his great sermon in Akko. That year he was already in Jerusalem, from where he continued to Rachel’s tomb and Hebron, and in the same year or a year later, returned to Akko.
Where did he deliver this sermon? Probably in the synagogue. Where a synagogue once existed in Crusader Akko in the 13th century, it is difficult for us to know ….
There is an assumption, although the archaeological confirmation has not yet been found, that nearby St. Andrea Church, a church that does not face east like most churches but rather south towards Jerusalem, preserves in its direction the place of the synagogue from the days of the Ramban. Another possibility would be in the place of St.John Church, a little to the north.
In his sermon, the Ramban deals with three issues: the laws of Rosh Hashanah, matters of repentance and above all these – the importance of the settlement of the Land of Israel, the duty of those living in the land to be “a King’s Palterin”.
During this period, when the Ramban was delivering his sermon, the students of R. Shimshon of Speyer, and perhaps himself as well as the students of R. Yechiel of Paris, were in Akko.
We can draw for ourselves that here in the area, the Ramban, the thinker, the man of halakhah, the commentator and the man of the land, carries his great sermon, when among his listeners were great sages with the common people, the inhabitants of Akko from previous generations.
25 Akko, Entrance Gate to the Holy Land
For some reasons, Akko and its sea rocks were considered the northern border of the Land of Israel. The sages of Israel were kissing the rocks of Akko when they finally reached the border of the Land, out of their fondness for the Holy Land.
– R. Abba kisses the rocks of Akko (Babylonian inscriptions)
– Rabbi Yossi Ben Hanina kissed the rocks of Akko and said: ‘So far it is the Land of Israel’ (Yerushalmi Tractate Seder Zeraim).
– The sages separated from each other in Akko because of the prohibition to leave the Land of Israel (Babylonian Gittin).
– Also in Breita Dathumin(The Breita of the Areas), the Tannaim source indicating the borders of the Land for certain matters in the days of the Tannaim and the Amoraim, Akko and its walls are mentioned as the northern border of the Land of Israel.
26 Akko fishes
On the verse “And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas” (Genesis 1:10), Midrash asks in Genesis Rabbah (5: 8) –
“Rabbi Yossi Bar Halafta said: “And is not one sea?” (since the whole sea is connected in all its parts), but -“The taste of fish that comes from Akko is not similar to the (taste of fish) that comes from Sidon and comes from Spain.”
That is, the sea is one, but the flavors of the fish differ from coast to coast ….
The enlargement of the interest comes in another midrash –
“Rabbi Yossi ben Meshulam says: How do you say that just as he gives delicacies in the land, so he gives delicacies at sea? The Talmud says: ‘And to the mikvah of water He called seas’ since it is one sea, it is said ‘The water will drain under the sky to one place ‘, why the Talmud says’ and to the mikvah of water He called seas’? And says that the taste of fish rising from Akko is not equal to the taste of fish rising from Sidon, and not the one rising from Sidon to the one from Banias. “
27 Or Torah Synagogue
he synagogue on the island of Djerba in Tunisia was unique in its worshipers – all were Cohen! And the tradition of a legend knows how to tell that at its foundation is a stone with the inscription “This is how far Yoav ben Tzruya came.” This is also the uniqueness of the Or Torah Synagogue for the Tunisian community in Akko ….
First, for a long time this synagogue has not been only “Tunisian”, but is open to all Israeli communities.
Second, there is a variety of themes designed in it with spectacular mosaics, from the history of Akko and the seven species through ancient and new coins, to the fauna and the flora in the Land of Israel, from women verses in the court of the women (Ezrat HaNashim) to tribal symbols and zodiac signs in the synagogue domes, from the ancient Midba map to the memory of the Holocaust of the Jews of Europe, up the stairs.