We should start at the bottom line: The Underground Prisoners Museum in Acre is an important, well-thought-out, fascinating and exciting site. Every Israeli should be introduced to this historic monument.
The site can be experienced via a group tour or independently. For groups arriving here, Bracha, the guidance coordinator, will plan a route following the process of inmate absorption in the Acre prison, documenting the daily life in the place and unfolding the story of the prison during the British mandate (1920-1948) from the viewpoint of prisoners from the three underground organizations: Haganah, Etzel and Lehi; supplemented by modern audio-visual and content-based measures of illustration. The highpoint is the suspense story that passes like a key-note through the entire tour: the preparations for the heroic break-in into the prison on May 1947; a break-in that wouldn’t have shamed any action movie.
The signs, the instruction and the well-invested films displayed in the various halls can be found in both Hebrew and English.
Visitors who choose the independent tour will learn about the place directly. Even though they will not experience the audio-visual instruction they will benefit from visiting parts of the prison that are not included in the guided tour (do not miss the ‘Letter to Freedom’ display) parts that are related to previous eras. For example, visitors climbing the stairs to the upper level may be surprised to find a cell that was inhabited by Zeev Jabotinsky in 1920 in his capacity as the commander of the protectors of the old city of Jerusalem. Adjacent to Jabotinsky’s cell there is a wooden door leading to a cell that was inhabited by the Bahá’u’lláh during the Ottoman regimen. To this day, the site serves as a pilgrimage center for many Bahai tourists.
The ever-changing story of the citadel itself is revealed via both tours. By the way, combining the visit to the museum with a visit to the Knights Halls underneath (all details are available at the visitors’ center in the old city), will grant visitors an understanding that will fill their hearts with pride for a long time. Guaranteed.
At the end of the guided tour we took alongside a group of students and their teacher, we arrived at the gallows chamber. The names of the nine members of underground organizations hanged in the gallows are imprinted on the walls. The words of the national anthem are written next to the list of names, with the end of the anthem missing; testimonials state that those sentenced to death sang ‘Hatikvah’ (the national anthem) to their last breath.
The girls asked their teacher to sing the anthem, this time to its end, and left even the most cynical of us breathless.