Jaffa lies at the southern end of Tel-Aviv‘s beach front, and the two are connected by a scenic promenade. Set on a natural hill above a harbor, Jaffa has a long and rich history, going back even to Canaanite times. The Bible records Jaffa as the port-of-entry of Cedars from Lebanon for Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, and the book of Jonah records the prophet boarding at a boat in Jaffa headed to Tarshish. Finally, Jaffa is also mentioned in the New Testament and Greek Mythology and played a major role in modern history as well.
Explore old Jaffa
Jaffa’s hilltop today combines an archaeological park amidst preserved remains from Ottoman times, all set as an arts center. First view the Ramesses II’s Gate Garden to appreciate to the oldest finds made in Jaffa. Next, the floating orange tree sculpture at its eastern entrance welcomes you into Jaffa’s main pedestrian street, characterized by chic art and crafts shops, and cafes. Adina Plastelina, for example, brings to life the ancient “millefiori” technique to create unique jewelry. Nearby, Ben Zion David Yemenite Jewelry Workshop, presents the ages old techniques of making Silver Jewelry.
The main square of Old Jaffa is a great spot for a coffee or Gelato break, and if you are a history buff, join the audio-visual presentation at the underground archaeological park “Kikar Kedumim”.
As you descend towards the port, look for the sign over a humble door stating “House of Simon the Tanner“. Here, by local Christian tradition, Peter had a vision that led early Christians to drop Kosher laws.
|Jaffa in the New Testament|
The Book of Acts records Jaffa as the place of one of the most significant events in Christian history took place. Acts chapter 9 records Peter receiving in Jaffa instructions by an angel to eat unclean animals and to share the Gospel also with non-Jews. To this day, several churches, of different Christian denominations, mark and venerate this event in Jaffa.
Discover Jaffa’s old port
Jaffa’s old port is reputed as one of the oldest ports in world. It was first used by the Canaanites, then Egyptian Pharaohs, King Solomon, and later by the Romans, the Crusaders, and the Ottomans. In the 19th and early 20th century it was of special significance as the only functioning port in central Israel. Oranges exported to Europe and Russia through this port were labeled as “Jaffa oranges”, and many pilgrims, tourists, and immigrants entered the Holy Land vie the port of Jaffa. Now days maritime commerce is re-directed to the modern scale ports of Haifa and Ashdod. Jaffa’s harbor today shelters only local fisherman boats, selling each morning their catch of the day.
However, the port of old Jaffa is evolving. Some of its former hangers are now housing attractive art galleries, restaurant and bars. Others have become big spaces for changing art exhibits.
Did you know?
Instead of cursing “Go to Hell”, sailors in former times would curse one another “Go to Jaffa!”. The port of Jaffa was considered dangerous to access from the sea because of the huge rocks close to the seafront. To this day buoys mark the specific entry way into the harbor. One of the rocks near the entry is known as “Andromeda Rock”. These rocks associate Jaffa also with Greek Mythology.
Jaffa in Greek Mythology
It all started when the oracle of Jaffa warned King Cepheus of Poseidon’s intention to storm the city with a deadly wave, all because of the vanity of his wife, Queen Cassiopeia. The only remedy, said the oracle, would be a human sacrifice to the Sea monster, the Medusa. In his despair the king ordered to tie is daughter, Andromeda, to a rock at the seafront of Jaffa. She would be devoured by the monster and so appease Poseidon’s wrath and save the city. Chained to the rock, beautiful Andromeda was waiting for her death, when Perseus showed up. Falling in love with her, he chopped the head of the monster, which fell into the water, and became the famous sea rocks in front of Jaffa’s port. Finally, all the figures of this story also became star constellations in proximity.
“Andromeda Rock” is marked to this day at Old Jaffa Port with a flag of Israel on a pole.
Eat and shop around Jaffa’s Clock Tower
Head now east and you will pass one of the best viewpoints of the seafront of Tel-Aviv, an ideal spot for a photo opp. Next to it, the Ottoman era terminal of Jaffa still holds an impressive clock tower. The former commercial center around and behind it, is now called the Flea Market. It is a popular attraction by locals and tourists alike, offering a wide selection of eateries, old and used furniture shops, trendy fashion stores, art galleries, and a suq for second-hand items.
Return in the evening to see Jaffa at night, and get a drink in the Flea market, which become a hip place of bars and live music.