A Church, A Mosque, 2 Synagogues Walked into Acco

Ten miles, 24,000 steps, and still standing after another full day of touring. We began by walking through Wadi Nisnas to get to the train station and head to Acco. It took us longer to walk to the train than it took to ride to Acco (a mere 20 minutes)! In Wadi Nisnas we saw a lot more street art than we’d caught on our previous walks through there, with surprises at nearly every turn.

Part of the art scene in Wadi Nisnas, a museum without walls.

Just before the Haifa train station, we stopped at the Elijah the Prophet (“Saint Elias”) Melkite Catholic Church to say hello. You may recall his association with Mount Carmel (I Kings 18). There are two different sites in Haifa that claim to be the cave in which Elijah took shelter (I Kings 19) and heard “the still small voice” following the wind, earthquake, and fire.

Elijah the Prophet in his chariot; the sculpture above the painting depicts him with a sword

Nut “cakes” of all varieties. Yum!

If all I’d done in Acco was see the Tunisian Djerba Synagogue, dayeinu/it would have been enough! This 4-story building is filled with spectacular mosaics (hundreds of millions of natural stones from Israel!) which recount the history of Israel and the Jewish people. There are also stained glass windows inside and metal sculptures outside.

One of several sculptures outside the Tunisian Or Torah (Djerba) Synagogue. This one depicts Jonah and the whale, with a verse from “Mah Tovu” on the archway.

Depiction of Acco and of Haifa side-by-side, mosaic

The musical instruments in Psalm 150, mosaic

Mosaic stairwell

View of the many arks (six!?), the skylight, and the inscriptions from the women’s balcony.

Mosaics of women adorn the walls of the women’s balcony. Here are Rachel and Leah with Jacob and some of the children.

The Synagogue was in the “new city” of Akko. From there we walked to the Old City, a UNESCO world heritage site.

On the way up to explore the walls of Akko’s old city

Up top of these walls were cannons and a history of Napolean’s unsuccessful invasion of Akko in 1799. Inside the walls is the Treasures of the Walls Ethnographic Museum.

Chaim is dress shopping in the Treasures in the Walls Ethnographic Museum. A myriad of collections were displayed including matchboxes, children’s games, furniture, scales, pottery, tools, and jewelry. The museum is IN the walls of the old city.

At the top of my Akko to-do list was to visit the Ramchal’s synagogue there. Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato (Ramchal is an acronym) is the author of the beloved Mussar text Mesillat Yesharim/Path of The Just,  a text I both study and teach regularly. Displayed is a part of a Torah scroll he calligraphed with pomegranate ink!

In the Ramchal’s synagogue, a Torah scroll he wrote with ink made from pomegranate peels! See how red the parchment is? After his death, the synagogue was named after him, Ohel Chayim.

From there we made our way to Sayid Hummus for lunch (with a line of locals so long, we weren’t sure we’d ever be seated) and some shopping in the shuk.

AlJazzar Mosque

Entrance to Al Jazzar Mosque, the 3rd largest mosque in Israel

Inside the mosque

Another must-see site in the Old City is the Al Jazzar mosque. But from there, a serious choice had to be made. Since we didn’t have time or energy to do it all, what would be the last visit on our agenda? Choices included the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens north of the city, or within the city, the Knights Templar Tunnel, The Knights Halls and Crusader Fortress, the Turkish Baths, or the Underground Prisoners Museum.

So it was that we moved to 20th-century Israeli history, the Jewish Underground’s (including the Haganah, Etzel, and Lechi) resistance to the British, and the conditions in the Akko prison where the British held (and executed some of) its prisoners. It was not an easy place to visit. Though the museum focused on 20th century history, this was the same prison to which the Baha’i prophet Baha’ullah was exiled in the 1800’s.

Gallows in Underground Prisoners Museum

Depiction of one of the ingenious ways in which notes might be smuggled in or out of the prison: on the inner cardboard of a toilet paper roll.

A view of Haifa across the bay from Acco. This is the view that Baha’i prophet Baha’ullah would have had from his prison cell when he decided to bury the Bab’s remains on Mt. Carmel (see yesterday’s post about this Baha’i history).

We are looking forward to a slower pace tomorrow to prepare for Shabbat and to Shabbat itself.









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