Tag Archives: Acre

Agada – The Only Bookstore in Acre

Inside Agada

Inside Agada

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” 

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

This is the only bookstore in Acre. Well, the only real bookstore. The owner named it ‘Agada’ meaning ‘Legend’ in Hebrew, and legend it is. For keeping a bookstore in Acre IS legendary. Not long ago there wasn’t any bookstore around for almost two decades. It felt like I was living in a remote, god forsaken little village. I had to travel to other towns in order to visit a bookstore. Later I discovered that I could buy secondhand books online, from various bookstores throughout the country. Thus begun the rapid, increasing evolution of my book collection. Today I own more than 250 volumes and going. But nothing can compare to the exciting adventure of arriving at a real magical place, packed from top to bottom, with endless old books.

The owner of Agada

The owner of Agada

This man is doing the impossible – he keeps a bookstore in Acre. If we had bookstores instead of every restaurant or clothing store, we would be the city of books. Unfortunately, the locals don’t read anymore. His audience is Russian immigrants like himself and myself. The survivors of a communist regime, where ironically enough culture, education and books were the essence of a person’s life. The only ones who regularly consume literature are middle-aged, retired pensioners. The owner gets the goods from Russian publishers in Moscow. Those books are new and pricey but they are being bought nonetheless. He also buys secondhand books from locals and sells them for a low price. Books you’d never find anywhere else. In addition Agada functions as a library. If you buy one expensive book, you can then take another book for 5 ins, read it and return it and then take another one for 5 ins. But all this is not enough to keep the book engine fueled and running. To keep a bookstore in Acre you need the tough guerrilla reinforcement – guided tours. The owner offers tours around the country and abroad, for a reasonable price and flexible payment, otherwise unavailable to many elderly immigrants who don’t have a credit card. This is not just a bookstore, this is a cultural and intellectual center, the only place in Acre where true enthusiastic book lovers can interact.

The entrance to Agada

The entrance to Agada

I visit Agada once a month or more, to catch up on what’s new. The place is small and doesn’t have a great variety, but sometimes, if you’re patient you can find real gems. Agada offers classical literature, fantasy, poetry, art and crafts and how-to books, specialized magazines, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Also the store has the Holy Land souvenirs, post cards, calendars, gifts, gadgets, sports equipment and more.

Recently I have come across this splendid album series of art books and purchased the three about Russian masterpieces and artists. This subject is extremely hard to find in bookstores in Israel.

A set of books about Russian art, purchase at Agada

A set of books about Russian art, purchase at Agada

Many have tried and failed in keeping a bookstore in Acre, but this man has done it for some years now, despite of the great hardships and challenges. I can only offer him my utmost respect and strongest support in this endeavor, wishing him the best of luck and a bright bookful future. For his sake, and ours, the few readers of Acre.

Contact Agada bookstore: rash12@walla.com, a_skalt@mail.ru

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Acre, my love

Acre, Aerial view via Wikimedia.

Acre, Aerial view via Wikimedia.

This is Acre. Five thousand year old ancient city. A triangle of land bursting into the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by strong walls and fortifications. The outburst of land created a little bay, and with it the great potential for a unique southern harbor. Today what’s left of it is a faint shadow of a remarkable past, an unseen glory and wealth.

Long before the Bible period, Acre was already inhabited by ancient nations such as Canaanites, Phoenicians, Egyptians and more. It underwent all world’s greatest epochs. Alexander the great’s army, the Hellenism, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine epoch, the Arab epoch until the third crusade in 1191. King Richard the lion heart captured Acre from the hands of the great Saladin. Then, a new age begun for Acre. It was a Christian megapolis, the heart of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, with a spectacular port and thriving commerce for 100 years. Rich markets, astounding churches and monasteries, famous military orders like the Templars and Hospitallers that defended its walls. A true grander of a medieval capital. But all that wealth was plundered and destroyed by the Mamluks to the ground, leaving Acre to a silent existence of a ghostly city for 500 years. Only buildings, stones and ruins. No people, no ships, nothing but silence… It was silent until the arrival of the phenomenal Bedouin leader, Daher el-Omar. He reconstructed Acre back to its former glory. Then, al-Jazzar, the Butcher made Acre his home and sanctuary during the Ottoman Empire, continuing the vast reconstruction and development. He fought Napoleon and defeated him at the eastern walls of Acre. In Acre was the biggest and most guarded prison in Palestine during the British Empire. Acre is holy for Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Bahai religions. This is just a fraction of its incredible history.

Acre harbor

Acre harbor

Above ground there are the Ottoman Empire remains, about 300 years old. Buried underneath, there’s a whole medieval city of the Crusaders. Amazing halls and secret passages everywhere. The Ottoman Acre is a replica of that ancient crusader megapolis. You can close your eyes and imagine the magnitude of the medieval city.

Now the Israeli government preserves and maintains Acre’s antiquity. It is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Ancient Acre is alive. It inhabits people, it has a large market, its harbor is used for fishermen and small cruise ships. It offers hotels, exquisite restaurants and lots of activities for all visitors. Even today It’s impressive and absolutely breathtaking. But since medieval times, it could never developed into a large city, being overshadowed by its neighbor port city, Haifa. From being a mountain, Haifa turned into a huge port megapolis, having deeper waters for steam ships. Whereas Acre grew smaller, remaining somewhere between a small city and a big town.

St. Francis church and convent

St. Francis church and convent, Acre

This is where I grew up, since 1990. Acre has it all, but when it comes to books it has almost none to offer. In all this time, I can’t remember even one worthy secondhand bookstore ever to exist here. You would think that a city of such history and magnificence must have plenty of old books in it and people who sell them. None that I know of. There must be old books in private collections. I believe there should be ancient scriptures in mosques, churches and synagogues throughout the city. There has to be an ancient library in the convent of st. Francis. Important Jewish scriptures from medieval times were written here. In any case, it is hidden from the public eye. In addition there is our small college library and the tiny public library. And that’s it. I guess our local population isn’t very interested in the organic keeper of knowledge. In recent years to my great happiness, there have opened up two bookstores in Acre. Bookless or not, there’s no other city in the world quite like this. It’s one of a kind. It’s my city and my home. I’m very grateful for being here, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.

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