Arabic, Akka; Hebrew, Akko
Acre was one of Palestine's two major seaports (the other was JAFFA) until the twentieth century and was a fortified town of significant political import throughout Palestine's history.
Lying at the foothills of Galilee on the northern end of the Gulf of Acre, the city's location has given it a vital strategic importance for both defenders and potential conquerors. Acre's current walls date from the ninth century. In 1104, Acre fell to Crusaders and became the main seaport for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. After changing hands several times, the city became the last Crusader stronghold in Palestine to fall, in 1291. In 1799, it earned the distinction of resisting Napoleon's conquest of Egypt and Palestine.
Acre was a major seaport and trade center for Greater Syria. The Ottoman sultan Sulayman the Lawgiver (the Magnificent) allowed the French king Francis I to station French traders in the city. In the seventeenth century, the regional ruler Fakhr al-Din II undertook many construction projects in the city , which was benefiting from the rise in European trade with the eastern Mediterranean. The Palestinians of Acre flourished during the rule of Zahir al-Umar in the third quarter of the eighteenth century , and so they undertook more rebuilding during the rule of the Ottoman governor Ahmad Jazzar Pasha. By the Ottoman era, Acre was a major port for the export of grain, which arrived from Hawran in southern Syria via camel caravan.
During the late Ottoman era, Acre's trade position began to suffer. The establishment of a railroad link between Damascus and the port of Beirut in 1895 led to the halving of Acre's trade. Its remaining trade was hurt in 1904 when the Syrian hinterland was connected with nearby HAIFA via railroad. However, the city's population doubled during the PALESTINE MANDATE, from some 6,420 in 1922 to 12,300 by 1944, one-sixth of whom were Christian Palestinians within a Muslim majority.
Acre contains several notable religious institutions. The Jazzar Mosque, built in 1781, includes relics from the Prophet Muhammad. Baha'ullah, the Iranian founder of the Baha'i faith, arrived in Acre in 1868 and was buried north of the town in 1892. The Islamic school for training ulama (men of religion), established during the Palestine Mandate in the Jazzar Mosque, was the only one of its kind in Palestine.
During the ARAB-ISRAEL WAR OF 1948, Acre was once again coveted for its vital strategic location. The Jewish Haganah captured the city on May 17, 1948, and all but some 3,200 of its inhabitants were expelled. The old quarters of the city , within the walls, soon disintegrated into slum districts. By 1953, 12,000 Jewish immigrants were settled in Acre. The city's population in 1987 stood at 37,200 Jews and 8,200 Palestinians.
Michael R. Fischbach
The above was quoted from Encyclopedia Of The Palestinians edited by Philip Mattar