Tag Archives: history

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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Isn’t that magical how printed black signs work together and form an actual meaning? (or, My Reading History)

college library

The Western Galilee College library.

I was always encouraged to read at home. My mom read a lot growing up and she passed on her love of reading to me. I loved school and learning and doing my homework! I am such a geek! But a cool geek though.. I learned how to read Russian from my mom in order to read on my own the Russian collection we had at home.

I started to get more interested in reading in middle school and visited the tiny library there from time to time. Mostly I wanted to practice my English, I remember choosing the classics in English for beginners. In high school our small library had a little collection of art books that caught my attention. I was studying graphic design at the time and that department contained a collection of old album series of the greatest artists, It was an old edition from 1964. I was fascinated with that series of albums! I would visit our Public Library and go through the art books and at that time my friend got me reading the Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy. Go Raist! It’s the only Fantasy I’ve ever read. All this time I wasn’t the most eager reader, I didn’t read a lot. Also, I didn’t have a substantial variety to be inspired from. Living in a small town I only had one small Public library and practically no book stores (the horror!). In the late 90’s, I still had no idea what internet was. But I knew I liked books, and that one day I’ll be able to afford the ones that I wanted most.

Later on, at the age of 18 I joined the army and didn’t have time for reading at all, but precisely then I started to collect. I was getting an allowance and I was traveling more around the country. Many times I got to visit Tel-Aviv. Tel- Aviv was like another planet on its own. Everywhere there were old, secondhand book stores. It was affordable, there was variety, it was exciting like finding a priceless treasure

On holidays we used to get these coupons and guess what I used to buy?…. The biggest treasure I got from the coupons was “Fantasy Workshop” by Boris Vallejo and Jullie Bell. I purchased it in another town of course. Still can’t believe my luck, cus it’s a process book, with sketches and everything. It was soooo expensive.

After the army and after working for another year I quit and began my studies in Graphic Design. Finally, I was exposed to a two story heaven on earth, the college library! Although it’s also small for a college library, nevertheless I got my inspiration at last. The first year was tough and left me no time to explore, but on the second year I’ve already examined what the library had to offer as far as my interests went. By the third year I was using books as a reference and idea generating tool for my projects. Also at that time I got to some more serious reading. Every chance I got, I would go to the library.

dictionary

The widest book I’ve seen so far in person, 6” wide! Moses Sar’el’s collection, Western Galilee College library.

The college library literary changed my life. It contained something extremely special in it, a vast collection of a true bibliomaniac. That man was crazy about books! Everything worth reading, discovering, knowing, was of his inheritance. Most of the books in fact. A whole universe in one man’s private collection. His name was Moses Sar’el, he was a Sociology professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He bought the books in different old book stores across Jerusalem, throughout many years. Those book stores don’t exist anymore. When he died, in the early 90’s (his newest book I found was from 1993), his widow donated the collection to our college and thus freed the whole apartment that was blocked with books, even the bathroom! He’s one of the most influential non-existing people in my life. During my exploration in the library over 2 years, it felt like I was getting to know him, and I could even tell by the cover if that was Sar’el’s book. Most of his interests were dear to me as they were to him: art, especially the Italian Renaissance, ancient history and cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome, ancient and classical literature and poetry, dictionaries, ancient maps and more. The widest book I’ve ever seen in person was Sar’el’s “The New Century Dictionary of the English Language”, about 6” wide. Many copies of my collection today are the ones that I encountered and fell in love with in Sarel’s collection. Thanks to him I discovered so many new worlds and started to develop my own little Bibliophillia. The amazing Time life series of “The Great Ages of Man” was revealed to me in all its glory, Ernst Gombrich’s “The Story of Art”, Jacob Burckhardt’s “The Civilization of the Renaissance”, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” with Duré’s illustrations and many many more.

After graduating college, very luckily I found work pretty soon, and about a year I was extremely busy learning the craft of dissecting graphics in the real world for print. I still could take books from the college library for the next two years, and I did.

About 3 years ago I’ve experienced a new twist of events by discovering a popular Israeli site of book blogging, much like Goodreads and such, only here I could also purchase secondhand books from all over the country pretty easily. Need I say more? And the binging began…..

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If there’s anything that still exists and stays with you after you die, it’s ideas.

manguel

Alberto Manguel’s book cover “A History of Reading”, Hebrew edition, 2001.

“Blurb and stuff” is my first attempt at serious blogging. The only thing that can keep me hooked on blogging is books. The goal is to share my individual interests, thoughts, ideas etc. with other people and learn from them. Because true, massive learning is gained only by brainstorming with other people. Too bad if I won’t have any readers to interact with…

So, how do I interest people and why would they read my blurbs and stuff? Don’t know, but if I think about what I would want to read in a blog then it’s about someone like me, someone’s personal experiences in reading, writing, collecting, thoughts and opinions, everything that has to do with books. I wish myself good luck! My surroundings do not contain many people who are interested in the same things as I am. Israelis read a lot, but they mostly read the new best-sellers, and it’s not interesting to me. We are after all the People of the Book, but somehow I do not know personally in real life any Israeli bibliophile such as myself.

I’m interested in a lot of stuff, but more specific issues are: art and art history, ancient history and cultures, illustration, calligraphy, classic literature, maps, languages and reading books as a an issue on its own. I’ll be presenting books and topics mostly from my own humble collection, which contains till now more than 250 books, stored happily in 2 large bookcases and grows lovingly more and more each month.

So many books, so little time. Unfortunately I can’t spend as much time reading as I would like to, also I’m not a fast reader. My romance with a book I’m reading is slow but extremely satisfying. I have to fully absorb and understand the essence of a sentence, otherwise it’s not worth reading. You can get tons of information, knowledge and ideas from everywhere, but I just love to get it out of a book. A book to me, is an organic tool for containing and preserving live ideas. It’s something about the hard cover, binding, the paper and its scent, the ink and printed letters, the old-fashioned illustrations and ornaments that makes the spiritual action of idea transfer into an outer bodily adventure.

* the image is from Alberto Manguel’s book cover “A History of Reading” (1996), the Hebrew edition (2001). One of my greatest favorites. It depicts  with sensitivity and humor the great Argentinian Author Jorge Luis Borges.

This is not a quick read, or a particularly easy one, but rather one that acts like a religious pilgrimage, cultivating the patience and curiosity that are perhaps waning in an age of instant gratification. It introduces you to a many colourful family members you didn’t know you had.

via A History of Reading, by Alberto Manguel | The Keepin’ It Real Book Club.

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