Situated at the Galilee’s northernmost tip, this picturesque, hilltop village – surrounded on three sides by Lebanon – was founded in 1896 with help from the French branch of the Rothschild family. In 1920 its location played a crucial role in the decision to include the Galilee Panhandle in the British Mandate of Palestine rather than the French Mandate of Lebanon. Today, it’s not French or British, but Israeli. And the economy is based on tourists in the mood for a Swiss alpine vibe and on fruit orchards growing apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, kiwifruit and lychees. Map.
Strolling up and down Metula’s quaint main street, you’ll pass lots of solid stone houses built a century or more ago; ceramic panels explain their history.
Perched high atop the hill southwest of HaRishonim St – the one with the red-and-white antenna tower on top – this lookout offers spectacular, often windy views. To the south you can see the Hula Valley, to the east the Golan (including Mt Hermon and the twin volcanoes of Avital and Bental) and to the north the fields and hills of Lebanon. Inside Israel’s northern neighbor, you can see the Ayoun Valley in the foreground, while on the horizon it’s easy to spot the Beaufort, a Crusader fortress. To get to the lookout, follow the signs – it’s about 1km above the center.
Nahal Iyyun Nature Reserve (04-695 1519; http://www.parks.org.il; adult/child 29/15NIS; h8.30am-5pm Apr-Sep, 8.30am-4pm Oct-Mar) One of the Galilee’s loveliest creek-side trails, about 3km long, follows the Iyyun (Ayun) Stream from its crossing from Lebanon into Israel, through a cliff-lined canyon, to four waterfalls, including the 31m-high Tanur (Chimney) Waterfall. The park has two entrances: one in Metula’s northeastern corner, just 100m from the border fence (last entry 1½ hours before closing), the other – offering an easy circuit to the Tanur Waterfall – on Rte 90 3km south of town (last entry 30 minutes before closing). The lower entrance has a wheelchair-accessible trail.
Canada Centre (04-695 0370; http://www.canada-centre.co.il; 1 HaRishonim St; ice skating 65NIS, pool 50NIS, bowling 35NIS, combo ticket 105NIS; closed Sun except Jul & Aug) This modern sports complex, a bit down the hill (south) from the village center, houses Israel’s largest ice rink (10am to 5pm), indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a 10-lane bowling alley (10am to 5pm), a spa and an impressive fitness center.
Sleeping & Eating
The historic houses along HaRishonim street are home to a number of rustic restaurants and a few places to stay.
Villa Lishansky (04-699 7184; http://www.rest.co.il/lishansky; 42 HaRishonim St; d 450-500NIS; restaurant 9am-noon, 1-4pm & 6.30-10pm or later) Built in the Bauhaus style in 1936 by the family of a famous WWI spy, this place – still owned by the Lishanskys – retains the original floor tiles, moldings and lamps. Hearty beef, lamb, chicken and fish dishes are prepared with Galilean herbs and spices in the hotel’s restaurant (2-course meals 99-138NIS). Upstairs, the three very spacious guest rooms connect to a sitting room that’s straight out of the 1930s.
Travel Hotel Metulla (04-824 8801, reservations 04-688 3040; http://www.travelhotels.co.il; 52 HaRishonim St; d/apt 500/650NIS, Thu & Fri extra 100NIS, additional child 100NIS) Opened in 2014, this attractive and thoroughly modern place – right in the center of the village – has 23 rooms and four apartments with space for five. Wheelchair accessible. Guests get free use of the Canada Center swimming pools from June to mid-October.
HaTachanah (04-694 4810; 1 HaRishonim St; mains 65-230NIS; 1-10pm or later Mon-Sat) Modern and airy, with wood-paneled walls and panoramic views, this highly regarded restaurant serves first-rate steaks as well as hamburgers, pasta, soups, salads and lamb chops. A 0.5L glass of German beer costs 33NIS. Kiddie portions are available (of the mains, not the beer). Reserve ahead on Thursday night, Friday, Saturday and holidays, and in August.
During the times of Ottoman in Israel, Napoleon led his armies to Jaffa in 1799 in order to capture this port city. He needed this city because it provided vital shelter for his fleet. Without Jaffa, his expedition in the Holy Land against the Ottoman would fail. But soon this expedition would turn into slaughter, torture and death.
Reading and learning about history teaches on thing: the barbaric practices in those times like the torture, beheadings, castrations, mass executions, rape and more are still being performed particular in the Middle East (but not limited to) by ISIS, Syria under Assad, Iran and Russia.
Jaffa was surrounded by high walls (some of them you still can see) flanked with large towers, and was guarded by Ahmed al-Jazzar’s so called elite troops. Under the defenders were 1,200 artillerymen, 3,640 infantrymen (many Albanians and Egyptians), all holed up in the city when the French were approaching the city. The defenders of Jaffa were quite confident that they would be able to defend themselves against the fast approaching infidels.
The Napoleon’s armies surrounded Jaffa and the siege started. Napoleon promised his step son Eugène de Beauharnais that prisoners’ lives would be spared after battles and be ‘civilized’, Napoleon sent a Turk to the city’s commander and Abdallah Bey (Turkish governor) to order its surrender.
Honestly for Napoleon, prisoners were a problem for him, because his armies in the Holy Land were an expeditionary force, badly ‘equipped’ for holding territory and keeping prisoners! If Napoleon would allow to keep prisoners, it would considerably reduce the size of his forces.
The Ottomans were not working under such constraints and ‘civilized’ battles, and the Turk was promptly tortured, castrated and decapitated and his head impaled on the city wall in front of the shocked French troops and an enraged Napoleon. If that was not enough for the overconfident Ottomans, they ordered a sortie against the French, which was immediately pushed back.
That was the turning point of the siege of Jaffa. An enraged Napoleon ordered to attack and a bombardment of Jaffa, which resulted in one of the towers to collapse, which gave the French army the opening to penetrate Jaffa. After a short, but fierce battle, the shocked and overwhelmed Ottoman army within the city walls surrendered.
Napoleon executed the Turkish governor Abdallah Bey (the city commander was killed during the short battle within the city) outside the city walls and allowed his soldiers two days and nights of slaughter and rape as revenge, while Napoleon was waiting outside the city walls.
He ordered one of his regiments to move about four thousand prisoners of war outside the city walls and kill them. But here it went wrong for Napoleon and the regiment. After they indeed killed (shot or stabbed to death with bayonets) the prisoners, a plague epidemic killed most of the regiment.
After the fall of Jaffa to the Napoleon forces, the expedition didn’t go so well as Napoleon had wished for. For greatest enemies were Ahmed al-Jazzar and plague epidemics. At the end, he took his remaining armies and he went back to France. He lost half of his armies because of the plague. When the French left, Ahmed al-Jazzar was trying to take Jaffa back, but this time it took him nine months of siege (instead of a couple of days by Napoleon).
Acre, or Acco has really a crazy history and one of the many reasons for that is because Acre is so very old, continuously inhabited since the early Bronze Age (c. 2000-1550 BCE) some 4000 years ago. In Egyptian records, it is mentioned in the Execration Texts, the First Campaign of Thutmose III and the Amarna Letters (ca. 1800 BCE), and today what Acre means is a coastal city with a small harbor and loads of tourism and an absolute crazy history with too many conquers and defeats to count.
In the start of its existence as city, Greek mysteries were at work here. The Greeks referred 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.
Acre was given to the Tribe of Asher, but ‘poor’ Asher failed to take it(Judges 1:31). Then it was given to Hiram by Solomon (I Kings 9:11-13). If that was not enough, Assyrian monarch Sennecherib took Acre, and another Assyrian monarch Ashurbanipal took it from Sennecherib.
In 333 B.C., it fell to Alexander the Great, but the city fell under Egyptian sovereignty in 261 B.C., and was renamed Ptolemais after Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 to 246 BCE. In 219 B.C., the city fell under Syrian sovereignty. The violent history of the port city took a break until 65 B.C.
The city was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, Cleopatra and Tigranes the Great. Alexander Jannaeus was the King of Judaea from 103 to 76 BC., who married the wife of his dead brother, was cruel and expanded the kingdom with a bloody civil war. Cleopatra was the last active pharaoh of Egypt, after her death Egypt became a province of the recently established Roman Empire. Tigranes the Great was King of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state east of the Roman Republic. And who said that history is boring, huh?
In that year the port city was part of the Roman empire under Pompey, when it became a Roman colony where army veterans were settled and built a Roman naval base. Here Herod the Great and Octavian (Jewish Historian for the Romans) met together and made their peace.
After some time of rest for the poor city, it became suddenly the focus point because of the first Jewish revolt. In fact, Acre is the city, where the actual first Jewish revolt started. In A.D. 66, it was sacked by the Jews in reprisal for the slaughter of the Jews in Caesarea.
The Roman reaction on the Jewish sacking of the port city didn’t sit well by the Roman empire, and the Romans made their headquarters here for the war in the First Jewish Revolt.
By the year 190, it had its own bishop. In the Byzantine Period, it became largely Samaritan and was named Samaritiki. In the year 614, the city was taken by the Persian Conquest. In the year 636, it became part of the Arab Conquest.
In 1104, the Crusaders took it under Baldwin I who renamed it Saint Jean d’Acre after Joan of Arc and the city often was called Acre – The Crusaders also turned it into a naval base. But it took the Crusaders 4 years of siege of the city to do that. The city provided the 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.
After the Crusader stronghold of Jerusalem fell to the Arabs, it became the Crusader capital and main port for the Mediterranean and various orders set up their centers. The centers were The Knights Templars, The Teutonic Order, Order of Saint Lazarus and the Order of the Knights of Saint John – Hospitallers. The good thing out all of it was that they allowed the Jews to live there too (which was different then normal those times).
The Order of the Knights of Saint John – Hospitallers
The Order of Saint Lazarus
The Crusader centers were filled with proud men, who would die for their order they belonged to. In the beginning, the Crusaders seemed to be unstoppable and ‘waltzed’ through any defense. Because of politics and betrayal, the Crusader centers were serious weakened.
Saladin came and conquered in the most unusable and unconventional ways possible in ancient and modern warfare. In 1187 Acre was taken by Saladin. In 1191 the Crusaders came back and took the city back under Richard the Lionhearted of England and Philip Augustus of France. In 1192, it became the capital of the Crusader Kingdom because they couldn’t take Jerusalem.
In the times of the Crusaders and Saladin, unusable strategies were applied in the battles about Acre. The city was occupied by Arabs, who were surrounded by Crusaders, who laid siege surrounding the city. Saladin came and surrounded the Crusaders, who surrounded the city. This continued for many years, until the Arabs within Acre fell and the Crusaders managed to penetrate the city and could stop Saladin of attacking the city.
In 1291, the mother of all battles occurred and the Crusaders were defending their last stronghold against Sultan Khalil el Ashraf (Mameluke). In Acre, there were more then 12,000 knights and they swore to fight till the last man against the ‘Arab hordes’.
And that’s exactly what they did. Even when many Crusaders were wounded, they would normally be spared by the Arab armies if they surrendered, but they choose to continue to fight until their last breathe. Many Crusaders were praying while they were fighting. Many of them were in a trance, trying to kill one attacker after the other while singing psalms. It scared the Arab armies to their core because of the eerie and sinister sound the Crusaders made.
After the terrible battle was finally over, Acre and the surroundings were covered by thick layers of the dead and a deadly quiet ruled the city and surroundings; only seven Crusaders survived. Many Arab soldiers who also survived this massive battle spread the stories of the terrible deeds of the Crusaders, who managed to kill more then 29,000 Arab soldiers in this battle. It seemed for the Arab soldiers and populations there there was a curse on the land and city. Their victory tasted more then bitter.
For hundreds of years everyone avoided to visit the city and the lands surrounding it and everything laid in ruins and stayed like that. Many locals were telling that they could hear the eerie quiet voices still singing the psalms of those who were killed in that terrible battle.
And after 458 years, Bedouin Sheikh Dehar el-Omar happened. Dehar el-Omar was the administrative head of northern Palestine in the mid-18th century, while the area was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. He managed to bring the cities Tiberias, Arraba, Nazareth, Deir Hanna together under his rule and finally added Acre to his list.
He built fortifications, but not really rebuilt to city. For this, he invited the Jews to join him, which they did by mass. Bedouin Sheikh Dehar el-Omar hoped that the Jews would rebuild the city to its full splendor, but they didn’t. It looked like the Crusaders curse was still there. The city became a center of the cotton trade instead between Palestine and Europe. Acre had that time a functioning harbor and fortifications surrounding the city with makeshift houses between the ruins of hundreds of years of age. In the mid-1760s, Sheikh Dehar el-Omar refocused on something else and he reestablished the port town of Haifa nearby.
In 1775, Ahmed Pasha the Albanian (El Jazzar) rebuilt the city with its splendor. He also built the Turkish Aqueduct that brought water from the Kabri Stream to Acco. The Crusader’s curse seemed to be broken by El Jazzar, according the locals those times.
In 1799, the French armies arrived under Napoleon, but they manage to withstand the Napoleonic siege. El Jazzar managed that tremendous feat.
The biggest power for the Napoleon’s armies was their artillery, or with other words their heavy cannons. Their strategy was actually first the bombardments, then charge with infantry. They used cavalry as well, but that was useless during sieges. El Jazzar was for sure aware of that, and took care that his men were as protected as possible under the French bombardments; the city walls were thick and strong. The French failure was actually quite simple to explain: the ran out of cannonballs. At the end it would be too costly to attack the city with only infantry and they gave up.
In 1814 Suleiman Pasha became the ruler of Acco and totally rebuilt the aqueduct and it is the aqueduct that is still visible today.
During the British Mandate Period, the Citadel was used as the British prison where many of the Jewish freedom fighters such as Jabotinsky were imprisoned and others were hung. In 1947, Jewish commandos breached the walls of the fortress freeing both Jewish and Arab prisoners. In 1948, it was one of the three strategic cities of Galilee which fell to Jewish forces – Captured in May 1948.
From all that history, what’s left to look at?
First, we have the aqueducts in Acre (Helenistic, El-Jazzar and Suleiman Pasha). Those aqueducts gathered its water from Ein Shefa, Ein Giah, Ein Shayara and Ein Zuph.
Secondly, we have the El Jazzar Mosque, the El Jazzar Fortress (Used by the British as a prison and place of execution for Jewish underground fighters), Saint John’s Crypt, Khan El-Umdan, Tel el-Fukhkhar (Toron), Crusader Subterranean City, Harbor, walls (built by El-Jazzar).
What is interesting is Tel el-Fukhkhar or the Old Testament Tel is this is the oldest part of Acre and since the Crusaders, still important. The Crusaders called it Toron, from here Richard the Lionhearted set out to conquer the city, the French called this the Napoleon’s Hill, because they tried to conquer the city but failed and finally Israeli forces launched their attack on the city in 1948 and succeeded. I guess there was no El Jazzar anymore.
And you, my dear reader, think that’s it? You’re wrong. The current times is nothing else then history for those who study history in the next 50 or 100 years. We are simply part of it.
One of the most important port cities in ancient history, strategically located at major crossroads in the center of the land of Israel. 2 Chronicles 2:16: “And we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need: and we will bring it to thee in floats by sea to Joppa; and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem”. Map.
Yafo (Yaffo, Joppa) is one of the oldest port cities in the land of Israel and the Mediterranean. Due to its natural advantages, a hill above a bay, and its strategic location on the crossroads of Israel, the city was a center of historical events over thousands of years.
The natural harbor of Yafo, located near a defendable hill, was in use in the Middle Bronze age, some 4,000 years ago. The Canaanite seaport city became an important stronghold with the valuable access to the Mediterranean sea.
Yafo is strategically located in the center of Israel, near the north-south Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”) – the ancient coastal road that connected the regions north of Israel (Mesopotamia, Asia minor and Syria) to the south (Egypt).
The cities and roads during the Canaanite, Israelite and Hellenistic/Roman periods are indicated on the Biblical Map below, with Yafo (Joppa) in the center along the coast. When the Egyptians invaded to Canaan in the 15th century BC, one of their prime targets was Yafo, a walled city with a maritime link to their main cities and access to the heart of the land.
Its location south of a natural defense line (the course of the Yarkon river) made it a perfect front station to defend Egypt from the threats of the rising forces of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia.
The city is one of the cities that were conquered by Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III , just before the famous battle near Megiddo (1468 BC), which resulted in the Egyptian conquest of Canaan for 350 years. It is listed in his palace among the cities he conquered.
The mighty city was captured only by trickery, as detailed in the accounts of the Egyptian commander. It is also mentioned in the El-Amarna letters, a 14th century BC Egyptian archive of clay tablets, which include letters written by Egyptian governors in Canaan.
Yafo was, according to these correspondences, an Egyptian administrative center and military base. A fortress, dated to Thutmose III, was excavated in Tel Yafo. Egyptian scarabs – seals or small good luck charms (nicknamed “Harpushit” since they look like beetles) were found in the excavations of Yafo bearing the names of Amenhotep III and his wife Tiy(reign 1391–1353 or 1388–1351 BC). These findings indicate the high role of Yafo within the Egyptian administration.
After the conquest of Israel by Joshua, Yafo was a border city in the region of the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19 39, 46): “This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities and their villages…. And Mejarkon, and Rakkon, with the border before Japho”.
At that time the Israelites have not yet settled in the city. Later, the tribe of Dan used the port of Yafo for marine trade, as hinted in judge Deborah’s complaint that Dan did not come to assist the campaign against the Canaanites (Judges 5 19): “and why did Dan remain in ships?”. The Israelites took control of the city only at later times, probably during Solomon’s period.
The port of Yafo (Joppa) was used by King Solomon for importing wood in order to build the first temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2 1,8,16): “And Solomon determined to build an house for the name of the LORD, and an house for his kingdom… And Solomon sent to Huram the king of Tyre, saying,… Send me also cedar trees, fir trees, and algum trees, out of Lebanon… And we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need: and we will bring it to thee in floats by sea to Joppa; and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem”.
Cedar wood logs were cut in the Lebanon and transported by boats to Yafo. Then they were hauled to Jerusalem (70km to the east) to build the temple. Pompey conquered the land in 63BC, and removed Joppa and the coastal cities from the area of the Jewish state as part of his territorial reforms (63BC to 55BC).
Herod the Great conquered Yafo in 39BC, reclaiming the port city to the Kingdom, thus providing access to the sea. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony annexed Yafo in 32BC, but Julius Caesar defeated the pair (30BC), and the Roman emperor granted Herod the city (30BC). For Herod the port of Yafo was an important source of income, which enabled him to expand the Jewish kingdom, and helped to finance the construction of a modern port city of Caesarea (25-13BC), which was a strong competitor for the port of Yafo.
Yafo continued to be part of the Jewish Kingdom under the Roman control. Yafo returned to play an important role as a port city during the Crusaders period, giving them a maritime access to Jerusalem, and a logistic link to Europe.
The Holy Land Christian pilgrimage increased the importance of the port. In Oct 13, 1102 a severe storm caused 23 large ships to crash against the rocks, and 1,000 people died in this tragic event. The city was captured for a short time by the forces of Saladin (1187) but Richard the Lionheart regained the city four years later.
The Crusaders enforced the walls of the city, but the city finally fell to the Mameluke Muslim armies – headed by the Baybars – in 1268. The Mamlukes destroyed all the coastal cities, in order to prevent future Crusade attempts.
Baybars expelled the Christians and razed the city. Yafo became a small town, although it continued to service the pilgrims to the Holy Land. In the late 17th century the Franciscans built a hostel near the sea in order to service the Christian pilgrims, and later turned it to St. Peter’s church.
At that time the Ottomans added a tower in order to protect the port against the pirates who terrorized the city. In 1689, for example, three pirate ships fired hundreds of rounds on the city.
Napoleon headed the French army in their advance from Egypt towards the heart of the Ottoman kingdom, and captured Yafo after a siege and fierce bombardments. After the French retreat – in the same year – the city was rebuilt and became an important fortified port city in the Ottoman empire.
The area was examined in the Palestine Exploration Foundation (PEF) survey (1866-1877) by Wilson, Conder and Kitchener. They reported (in Vol 2, Sheet XIII, pp254-258) as follows:”The town rises in terraces from the water ; it is surrounded on all sides by the wall and ditch, which are decaying rapidly.
The port is very bad ; the ordinary entrance is through a narrow reef, but in stormy weather the boats go out by a passage on the north side. The bazaars are among the best in Palestine. The principal buildings in the town are the Latin Hospice, the Serai in the centre of the town, the mosque towards the north.
The quarantine is outside the walls on the south, and the Greek monastery on the east, on which side a new gate was made in 1869. The wall is here pulled down… There is a lighthouse near the custom-house of the town, and near this a little mosque, said to mark the site of the Crusading Church of St. Peter.
The principal bazaar is in the north-east corner of the town, just outside the original land gate. The walls date from the end of the eighteenth century, at which period the town was re-built, having been almost entirely destroyed in the fifteenth century. They were commenced by the English, and continued by the Turks after the storming by Kleber in 1799″.
Most of the area to the east of the city was agriculture – mainly growing oranges which were exported from the port. On the south and north are vast areas of sand. By the end of the 19th century the city expanded rapidly, and was the main gateway to the rediscovered land.
It eventually outgrew its available land and sources of income. The lack of real-estate space forced the Jewish settlers to establish in 1909 a new city – Tel-Aviv – in the sandy areas north of the city. Gradually, the Jewish population moved to the new neighborhoods in Tel-Aviv.
During WW1 the British forces fought the Ottoman forces, and at the end of 1917 approached Yafo from the south. Prior to the assault, all of its residents were evacuated in order to better defend the port against a possible British naval invasion.
The British surprised with a land attack, and Yafo was captured on 16 November, 1917. After then, the port supported the British military logistic supply until the end of the war. The British expanded the port in 1934 by constructing a new quay. After the bloody revolt of the Arab population (1936), Yafo became a center of the terrorist activities.
As a result, the British razed most of the houses in the old city to clear up the maze of narrow alleys in order to handle the armed gangs.
The port of Yafo was shutdown by the Arab workers. As a response to this blockade, a new port was opened in the Jewish city of Tel-Aviv in 1938, which was the beginning of the end for the port of Yafo. Following the establishment of Israel (1948), the port was finally closed after several years.
Only few fishermen continued to sail from the port. Excavations in the past 20 years have revealed the port of Yafo is a naturally shallow water harbor that was used to load and unload barges. The larger ships with the goods were anchored at a distance from the coastline.
In recent years the port area is undergoing renovations, becoming a viable tourist destination. The old city of Yafo (“the pretty city”) and its historic port is turning to be one of the most exciting and picturesque places in the area. It offers historic and religious sites, a renovated port, artist galleries and nightlife, and an easy access to Tel-Aviv.