by Frank Orenstein

Travelling to Akko, sometimes called Akka or Acre, is not the first time I have traveled abroad.  Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.  However, in all of my travels Akko is distinctly unique.

When I was eleven my father, an officer in the US Army,took a duty station at a military base just outside of Tokyo, Japan.  Over the two years that I lived there, I traveled all over Asia and the Pacific. I like to think it taught me an appreciation for what this city truly offers.  Akko is old, very old.  And while this does not by definition make it necessarily interesting, Akko is a city steeped in its own age.  Tokyo, where I used to live, is not.  This is not to say that Tokyo isn’t a wonderful place, it is, but it is one where the city’s past has been limited.  It only persists in the various shrines, temples, and monuments hidden away in various corners and niches.  Otherwise modern construction, prompted by rebuilding after WWII or other variables, has swallowed everything else.

This is not the case in Akko.  Akko instead wears its age draped around it like a blanket, heavy and omnipresent. To put this in some perspective, Akko has seen almost continuous human habitation for at least four thousand years.  Akko was here when the State of Israel was founded in 1948.  It acted as a military stronghold to the crusaders mustered who fought in the Middle Ages.  For those of Abrahamic faith, the oldest settlements here likely predate Abraham himself.  In fact, the discerning observer will notice the heavy stone blocks used in much of the buildings in Akko’s “Old City”.  Those stone blocks, the same ones used in modern homes and businesses, began as walls or foundations in the crusader period nearly a thousand years ago.

It is true that Tokyo has its own history, stories, and old places, but they are hidden away or have long since been removed to museums. You won’t find many buildings with such old materials there, not like here in Akko.  I speak from personal experience when I say that it is hard to feel that city as an old one, unlike here.  Travelling to Akko has been a unique experience for me, and one that I sincerely appreciate.  The history of this city has a weight to it, one built over thousands of years, and it is one I think it important to learn from.

Sunset over the Old City

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Frank Orenstein
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Akko and Tokyo:  Heritage and History