Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The Jezzar Pasha Mosque at Acco. This mosque was built by the Ottoman governor of Acco in the late 18th century, Ahmed al-Jezzar (“The Butcher”) Pasha, equally famous for his cruelty, his impressive public works, and for having defeated Napoleon in 1799 (Wikipedia).
One of the many places we visited during our recent visit to Israel was the coastal city of Acco, also known as Acre, which lies at the northern end of Haifa Bay. It’s not too much farther north before you hit Rosh HaNikra, which sits right on the border with Lebanon.
Acco is of historical interest owing not only to its being one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the country - it was also the capital of the Crusader state that ruled over parts of the Holy Land at various intervals between 1104 and 1291, when the Egyptian Mameluks finally booted the Crusaders out.
There are all sorts of excavations going on as the ancient Crusader fortress and its surroundings continue to yield their dusty secrets. Enormous subterranean vaults and rooms are being dug out inch by inch, with areas completely inaccessible even as little as a decade ago now exposed to the light of the sun. (Not everything that goes on in the ancient Citadel is strictly archaeological, as evidenced by the presence of a crew filming “Israeli Idol” while we were there.)
A recently excavated subterranean vault beneath the Crusader Citadel.
Some think of the Crusaders as heroic warriors - at least, so do many of the Christians among us. We Jews have less pleasant institutional memories, given the bloody ravages that the Crusaders conducted against the Jews of Europe as they worked their way southward to the Holy Land. But that is history, and all that is left are memories, bones, and stones. And artifacts that evidence a fairly normal quotidian existence. Lookee:
Here’s a room which at first blush gives little obvious evidence of its intended purpose. A storage closet? A kitchen? An abattoir?
No... it’s a toilet!
I recognized it in an instant - well before our guide explained its purpose. For to my eyes it was altogether reminiscent of the basement-level restrooms in Cuyler Hall at Princeton, where I spent my freshman year. But there was another clue as well...
[Click to embiggen.]
Why, it’s a giant, economy-sized restroom! (Hey, even Christian Soldiers need to take a crap once in a while.)