There's Something Rotten in Akko (and It's Not the Falafel)

Our Man in Israel Follows His Nose to the Old City

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By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published May 18, 2014, issue of May 23, 2014.
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Akko’s Old City, many people told me, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but I never found the time to go there. At least not until today, when I decided that it’s time I finally heed their advice.

I don’t know anybody in Akko — Old City or New — which means that I must find a hotel. I try booking a room but my choices are very limited. To be more exact, there’s only one available room in the whole of Akko’s Old City, in a place called Akko Gate Hostel.

It doesn’t occur to me that there might be a reason why this particular place is the only place with available rooms, and I immediately book the room.

Only when I enter my room after a long ride do I realize my mistake. The room stinks, it’s very small, and nothing in it works. Everything I touch makes a sound as if it is just about to break apart.

Yet, I must admit, this Akko Gate Hostel has something very appealing — Waled, the owner of the place. Waled is funny, welcoming, and if he likes you he will give you great coffee for free.

Many of his family members, he tells me as I sip his sweet-bitter coffee, don’t live in Akko anymore. They moved to Berlin, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Why? “Before 1948, the Jews were dispersed all over the world, but now it’s us.”

How come?

“The Jews push us out of our land.”

How do the Jews do it?

Simple. Years back, Waled tells me, Israel came up with a genius plan. They offered the Jews living in Akko’s Old City new houses in the New City, but they kept the Arabs in the Old City, leaving them with a broken sewage system and rats. As a result, the Arabs left Akko and moved to Germany and Holland.

If the Arabs and the Jews left, I wonder, who is living in Akko’s Old City these days?

I say goodbye and go out to check.

Walking the streets of the Old City, I hear Arabic, German, English and some Hebrew. But most of all, I hear Arabic. Did the Arabs come back from Frankfurt without telling Waled? Perhaps I should run to Akko Gate Hostel and tell Waled that his family is back.

Alone Among Arabs and Tourists: The proprietor of the Akko Gate Hostel stands behind Tuvia Tenenbom (center) and guests.
Isi Tenenbom
Alone Among Arabs and Tourists: The proprietor of the Akko Gate Hostel stands behind Tuvia Tenenbom (center) and guests.

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