Acre ( or , , ʻAkko; , ʻAkkā, Ancient Greek, Akre, Ἄκρη) is a city in the northern coastal plain region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world.
Historically, it was a strategic coastal link to the Levant. In crusader times it was known as St. John d'Acre after the Knights Hospitaller of St John order who had their headquarters there. Acre is the holiest city of the Bahá'í Faith. In 2011, the population was 46,464. Acre is a mixed city, with 75% of the population being Jewish and 25% Arab. The mayor is Shimon Lankri, who was re-elected in 2011.
Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the region. The name Aak, which appears on the tribute-lists of Thutmose III (c. 15th century BC), may be a reference to Acre. The Amarna letters also mention a place named Akka, as well as the Execration texts, that pre-date them. First settlement at the site of Ancient Acre appears to have been in the Early Bronze Age, or about 3000 BC  In the Hebrew Bible, (Judges 1:31), Akko is one of the places from which the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanites. It is later described in the territory of the tribe of Asher and according to Josephus, was ruled by one of Solomon's provincial governors. Throughout Israelite rule, it was politically and culturally affiliated with Phoenicia. Around 725 BC, Akko joined Sidon and Tyre in a revolt against Shalmaneser V.
Greek, Judean and Roman periods
Greek historians refer to the city as Ake, meaning "cure." According to the Greek myth, Heracles found curative herbs here to heal his wounds. Josephus calls it Akre. The name was changed to Antiochia Ptolemais (in Greek Αντιόχεια Πτολεμαίς) shortly after Alexander the Great's conquest, and then to Ptolemais, probably by Ptolemy Soter, after the partition of the kingdom of Alexander the Great.
Strabo refers to the city as once a rendezvous for the Persians in their expeditions against Egypt. About 165 BC Judas Maccabeus defeated the Seleucids in several battles in Galilee, and drove them into Ptolemais. About 153 BC Alexander Balas, son of Antiochus Epiphanes, contesting the Seleucid crown with Demetrius, seized the city, which opened its gates to him. Demetrius offered many bribes to the Maccabees to obtain Jewish support against his rival, including the revenues of Ptolemais for the benefit of the Temple in Jerusalem, but in vain. Jonathan Maccabaeus threw in his lot with Alexander, and in 150 BC he was received by him with great honour in Ptolemais. Some years later, however, Tryphon, an officer of the Seleucids, who had grown suspicious of the Maccabees, enticed Jonathan into Ptolemais and there treacherously took him prisoner.
The city was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Tigranes II of Armenia. Here Herod built a gymnasium. St Paul spent a day in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). A Roman colonia was established at the city, Colonia Claudii Cæsaris.After the permanent division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Akko was administered by the Eastern ("Byzantine") Empire.
Early Islamic era
Following the defeat of the Byzantine army of Heraclius by the Muslim army of Khalid ibn al-Walid in the Battle of Yarmouk, and the capitulation of the Christian city of Jerusalem to the Caliph Umar, Acre came under the rule of the Rashidun Caliphate beginning in 638. According to the early Muslim chronicler al-Baladhuri, the actual conquest of Acre was led by Shurahbil ibn Hasana, and it likely surrendered without resistance. The Arab conquest brought a revival to the town of Acre, and it served as the main port of Palestine through the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates that followed, and through Crusader rule into the 13th century.
The first Umayyad caliph, Mu'awiyah (r. 661-680), regarded the coastal towns of the Levant as strategically important. Thus, he strengthened Acre's fortifications and settled Persians from other parts of Muslim Syria to inhabit the city. From Acre, which became one of the region's most important dockyards along with Tyre, Mu'awiyah launched an attack against Byzantine-held Cyprus. The Byzantines assaulted the coastal cities in 669, prompting Mu'awiyah to assemble and send shipbuilders and carpenters to Acre. The city would continue to serve as the principal naval base of Jund al-Urdunn ("Military District of Jordan") until the reign of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (723-743), who moved the bulk of the shipyards north to Tyre. Nonetheless, Acre remained militarily significant through the early Abbasid period, with Caliph al-Mutawakkil issuing an order to make Acre into a major naval base in 861, equipping the city with battleships and combat troops.
During the 10th-century, Acre was still part of Jund al-Urdunn. Local Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi visited Acre during the early Fatimid era in 985, describing it as a fortified coastal city with a large mosque possessing a substantial olive grove. Fortifications had been previously built by the autonomous Emir Ibn Tulun of Egypt, who annexed the city in the 870s, and provided relative safety for merchant ships arriving at the city's port. When Persian traveller Nasir Khusraw visited Acre in 1047, he noted that the large Friday mosque was built of marble, located in the centre of the city and just south of it lay the "tomb of the Prophet Salih." Khusraw provided a description of the city's size, which roughly translated as having a length of and a width of . This figure indicates that Acre at that time was larger than its current Old City area, most of which was built between the 18th and 19th centuries.
Crusader and Mamluk period
After roughly four years of siege, Acre finally capitulated to the forces of King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1104 during the First Crusade. The Crusaders also made the town their chief port in Palestine. On the first Crusade, Fulcher relates his travels with the Crusading armies of King Baldwin, including initially staying over in Acre before the army’s advance to Jerusalem. This demonstrates that even from the beginning, Acre was an important link between the Crusaders and their advance into the Levant. Its function was to provide Crusaders with a foothold in the region and access to vibrant trade that made them prosperous, especially giving them access to the Asiatic spice trade. By the 1130s it had a population of around 25,000 and was only matched for size in the Crusader kingdom by the city of Jerusalem. Around 1170 it became the main port of the eastern Mediterranean, and the kingdom of Jerusalem was regarded in the west as enormously wealthy above all because of Acre. According to an English contemporary, it provided more for the Crusader crown than the total revenues of the king of England.
The Andalusian geographer Ibn Jubayr wrote that in 1185 there was still a Muslim community in the city who worshipped in a small mosque. Acre, along with Beirut and Sidon, capitulated without a fight to the Ayyubid sultan Saladin in 1187, after his decisive victory at Hattin and the subsequent Muslim capture of Jerusalem. It remained in Muslim hands until it was unexpectedly besieged by King Guy of Lusignan—reinforced by Pisan naval and ground forces—in August 1189. The siege was unique in the history of the Crusades since the Frankish besiegers were themselves besieged, by Saladin's troops. It was not captured until July 1191 when the forces of the Third Crusade, led by King Richard I of England and King Philip II of France, came to King Guy's aid. Acre then served as the de facto capital of the remnant Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1192 and later became a seat of the Knights Hospitaller military order. Acre continued to prosper as major commercial hub of the eastern Mediterranean, but also underwent turbulent times due to the bitter infighting among the Crusader factions that occasionally resulted in civil wars.
The old part of the city, where the port and fort were located, protrudes from the coastline, exposing both sides of the narrow piece of land to the sea. This could maximize its production as a port and the narrow entrance to this protrusion served as a natural and easy defense to the old city. Both the archaeological record and Crusader texts emphasize Acre’s strategic importance—a city in which it was crucial to pass through, control, and, as evidenced by the massive walls, protect. Acre was the final stronghold of the Crusader states when much of the Levantine coastline was conquered by Mamluk forces. The city, having been isolated and largely abandoned by Europe, capitulated to the Mamluks led by Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil in a bloody siege in 1291. In line with Mamluk policy regarding the coastal cities (to prevent their future utilization by Crusader forces), Acre was entirely destroyed with the exception of a few religious edifices considered sacred by the Muslims, namely the Nabi Salih tomb and the Ayn Bakar spring. The destruction of the city led to popular Arabic sayings in the region enshrining its past glory. In 1321 the Syrian geographer Abu'l Fida wrote that Acre was "a beautiful city" but still in ruins following its capture by the Mamluks. Nonetheless, the "spacious" port was still in use and the city was full of artisans. Throughout the Mamluk era (1260-1517), Acre was succeeded by Safad as the principal city of its province.
The Ottomans under Sultan Selim I captured what remained of the city in 1517, which had been burned down by the Mamluks and had become a tiny fishing village. English academic Henry Maundrell in 1697 found it a ruin, save for a khan (caravanserai) built and occupied by French merchants for their use, a mosque and a few poor cottages. The khan was named Khan al-Ilfranj after its French founders.
During Ottoman rule, Acre continued to play an important role in the region via smaller autonomous sheikdoms  Towards the end of the 18th century Acre revived under the rule of Dhaher al-Omar, the Arab ruler of the Galilee, who made the city capital of his autonomous sheikhdom. Dhaher rebuilt Acre's fortifications, using materials from the city's medieval ruins. He died outside its walls during an offensive against him by the Ottoman state in 1775. His successor, Jezzar Pasha, further fortified its walls when he virtually moved the capital of the Saida Eyelet ("Province of Sidon") to Acre where he resided. Jezzar's improvements were accomplished through heavy imposts secured for himself all the benefits derived from his improvements. About 1780 Jezzar peremptorily banished the French trading colony, in spite of protests from the French government, and refused to receive a consul. Both Dhaher and Jezzar undertook ambitious architectural projects in the city, building several caravanserais, mosques, public baths and other structures. Some of the notable works included the Jezzar Pasha Mosque, which was built out of stones from the ancient ruins of Caesarea and Atlit and the Khan al-Umdan, both built on Jezzar's orders.
In 1799 Napoleon, in pursuance of his scheme for raising a Syrian rebellion against Turkish domination, appeared before Acre, but after a siege of two months (March–May) was repulsed by the Turks, aided by Sir Sidney Smith and a force of British sailors. Having lost his siege cannons to Smith, Napoleon attempted to lay siege to the walled city defended by Ottoman troops on 20 March 1799, using only his infantry and small-calibre cannons, a strategy which failed, leading to his retreat two months later on 21 May.
Jezzar was succeeded on his death by his son Suleiman Pasha, under whose milder rule the town advanced in prosperity till his death in 1819. After his death, Haim Farhi, who was his adviser, paid a huge sum in bribes to assure that Abdullah Pasha (son of Ali Pasha, the deputy of Suleiman Pasha), whom he had known from youth, will be appointed as ruler. Abdullah Pasha ruled Acre until 1831, when Ibrahim Pasha besieged and reduced the town and destroyed its buildings. During the Oriental Crisis of 1840 it was bombarded on 4 November 1840 by the allied British, Austrian and French squadrons, and in the following year restored to Turkish rule. It regained some of former prosperity after linking with Hejaz Railway by a branch line from Haifa in 1913. It was a sanjak centre (Sanjak of Acre) in Beyrut Eyalet until English occupation in 23 September 1918 during World War I.
British Mandate of Palestine
At the beginning of the Mandate period, in the 1922 census of Palestine, Acre had 6,420 residents: 4,883 of whom were Muslim; 1,344 Christian; 102 Baha'i; 78 Jewish and 13 Druze. The British Mandate government reconstructed Acre, and its economic situation improved. The 1931 census counted 7,897 people in Acre, 6076 Muslims, 1523 Christians, 237 Jews, 51 Baha'i and 10 Druse. In 1946 Acre's population numbered around 13,000.
In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Acre was designated part of a future Arab state. Before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War broke out, Acre's Arabs attacked neighbouring Jewish settlements and Jewish transportation; in March 1948 42 Jews were killed on an attack on a convoy north of the city, whilst on 18 March four Jewish employees of the electricity company and five British soldiers protecting them were killed whilst travelling to repair damaged lines near the city.
During the 1948 War, Acre was besieged by Israeli forces. A typhoid fever outbreak occurred in Acre at this time. According to the Red Cross archives, an emergency meeting held at the Lebanese Red Cross hospital in Acre concluded that the infection was water borne, not due to crowded or unhygienic conditions. Brigadier Beveridge, chief of the British medical services, Colonel Bonnet of the British army, and delegates of Red Cross were present in this meeting. Beveridge proclaimed at the time that "Nothing like that ever happened in Palestine". According to Ilan Pappé, even the guarded language of Red Cross reports points to outside poisoning as the sole explanation of the outbreak.
State of Israel
Acre was captured by Israel on 17 May 1948, displacing about three-quarters of the Arab population of the city (13,510 of 17,395). Throughout the 1950s many Jewish neighbourhoods were established at the northern and eastern parts of the city, as it became a development town, designated to absorb numerous Jewish immigrants, largely Jews from Morocco. The old city of Akko remained largely Arab Muslim (including several Bedouin families), with Arab Christian neighbourhood in close proximity. The city also attracted Bahá'í worshippers, some of whom became permanent residents in the city, where the Bahá'í Mansion of Bahjí is located.
In the 1990s the city absorbed thousands of Jews, who immigrated from the Soviet Union and later from Russia and Ukraine. Within several years, however, the population balance between Jews and Arabs shifted backwards, as northern neighbourhoods were abandoned by many of its Jewish residents in favour of new housing projects in nearby Nahariya, while many Muslim Arabs moved in (largely coming from nearby Arab villages). Nevertheless, the city still has a clear Jewish majority; in 2011 the population of 46,000 included 30,000 Jews and 14,000 Arabs.
Ethnic tensions erupted in the city on 8 October 2008 after an Arab citizen drove through a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood during Yom Kippur, leading to five days of violence between Arabs and Jews.
In 2009, the population of Acre reached 46,300. The current mayor Shimon Lankri was re-elected in 2011.