Akko - Contested Gateway City
by Guy Cohen and wife Tali, Harvest of Asher Congregation leader, Tents of Mercy Network
Strategic Access to Galilee and Israel
Harvest of Asher Congregation is located in the ancient city of Akko in northern Israel. Jutting into the Mediterranean Sea, Akko boasts the best natural harbor in Israel and served throughout much of history as one of the most strategic cities in the world - a central axis point connecting East and West, Asia and the Mediterranean. Numerous empires fought for possession of this key access city into the northern heartland of Israel and major land routes of the Near East. This article gives context and background regarding the city and the spiritual/human dynamics with which the Messianic congregation there interacts today.
The city of Akko is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world, starting about 5000 years ago. Among those who ruled it were: Phoenecia, ancient Israel, Tyre, Greece, Persia, Egypt, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Mamluk Muslims, Crusaders, Ottoman Turkey, Britain, and now modern Israel.
The fortified city of Akko is mentioned in the Bible several times, first in Judges 1:31 as belonging to the territory of Asher. Israel was not able to conquer it at the time of Joshua. Later King David conquered additional areas of the Promised Land, including Akko. His son, Solomon, inherited the kingdom and built the temple in partnership with Hiram, king of Tyre. In exchange for Hiram's help, Solomon gave him 20 cities including Akko.
Akko is referred to in the New Testament in Acts 21:7 under the name Ptolemais. The Apostle Paul entered the city by way of the sea and met with believing brothers there.
It was from Akko, in the year 67 A.D., that Roman generals Vespasian and Titus staged their attack on the Great Revolt. The battles continued from there through the Galilee and eventually culminated in the tragic seige of Jerusalem prophesied by Yeshua in Luke 19:41-44.
King Richard the Lionheart also came to Akko, and made it the capital of the crusader kingdom in the Holy Land in lieu of Jerusalem, which he failed to conquer. Many times throughout history, controlling Akko was the key to defending Jerusalem. Control of Akko dictated control of the bay coast line now called the "Krayot" where the Tents of Mercy mother congregation is located. The Jezre'el Valley curves past Nazareth and Megiddo ("Armageddon") ending at this same bay. So we see a future connection with Armageddon and the events leading to the conquering return of King Yeshua. This gives us additional motivation to embrace the challenge of spiritually preparing the way of the Lord in this strategic city.
Jewish - Arab Coexistence and Akko Today
When the modern state of Israel was established in 1948, there was much tension between Jews and Arabs in Akko. Since that time, relations between the two communities have steadily improved, resulting in the formation of joint cultural and business ventures. Remarkably, now there are some neighborhoods which have integrated populations of Jews and Arabs. Today Akko is one of the few cities in Israel inhabited by large numbers of both Jews and Arabs.
There is still some tension and distrust which occasionally erupts in episodes of violence, as happened 5 years ago, when hundreds of young Arabs took to the streets with clubs, destroying cars and property. However, in general, most of the Arab and Jewish populations of Akko desire to live in peaceful coexistence. The local tourist economy has prospered in recent years due to the many Christian, Bahai, Muslim and Jewish visitors.
Harvest of Asher Congregation opens its doors to all who live in Akko and the surrounding region. Due to the city';s contested history, one can often feel a certain heaviness upon its residents. The Lord invites all who are thirsty, weary and heavy laden to come to Him, and He will give them rest.
Our place as believers is to proclaim freedom for the captives through prayer and intercession. We seek to share the good news through friendship and a helping hand to the needy. This includes serving the local population via a soup kitchen, humanitarian aid, and pro-life ministries. We also seek to strengthen our congregants by teaching the Word, establishing foundations of faith and creating vibrant children's programs. We appreciate your prayers for all the peoples of this strategic city.
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