When Rabbi Zeira went up to the Land of Israel and could not find a ferry to cross a certain river, he grasped a rope bridge and crossed. Thereupon a certain Sadducee sneered at him: “Hasty people, that put your mouths before your ears, you are still, as ever, clinging to your hastiness.” Rabbi Zeira replied. “The spot which Moses and Aaron were not worthy of entering, who could assure me that I should be worthy of entering?”
Rabbi Abba used to kiss the rocks of Akko.
Rabbi Hanina used to repair its roads.
Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Gamda rolled himself in its dust, for it is said in (102:15) “For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust.”
The Gemara on the previous page (110b–111a) related that Rabbi Zeira moved from Babylon to Israel against the ruling of his teacher, Rav Yehuda, who believed that the passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (27:22) forbade anyone from leaving Bavel and returning to Israel prior to the coming of the Messianic age. Rabbi Zeira disagreed, and interpreted that to be referring specifically to the Temple utensils that had been taken into exile to Babylonia.
According to the Rambam, the cliffs of Akko were especially beloved by Rabbi Abba because Akko was the northernmost point in Israel during the Second Temple era. Thus, travelers from Babylon to Israel would first step foot in the Holy Land in Akko.
Based on an alternative reading of the Gemara, rather than repairing the roads of Akko, Tosafot argue that Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Asi would weigh the rocks or examine them. When they were found to be heavier (or according to the Midrash Tanhuma, harder), they would then know that they had arrived in Israel. The Arukh attributes this to the passage in (8:9) that describes the stones of Israel as being iron.