Jaffa – my last stop in Israel

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Jaffa, western port of the Canaanite empire, 1470 BCE.

Pharaoh Thutmose III sought to regain Egypt’s control over the lands as far as Syria. He presented large baskets full of ‘gifts’ to the governor of Jaffa, an important port city of Canaan. Little did the governor know about armed Egyptian warriors hidden in those baskets.

Jaffa (ΰ€œΰ€Ύΰ€«ΰ€Ύ, also called Yafo), located south of Tel Aviv, is among the oldest cities in Israel and consequently has a very turbulent and bloody history.

History:

Archaeological evidence shows that Jaffa was inhabited some 7,500 BCE, which is really really old πŸ™‚ It occurred in recorded history only around the time of Canaan’s and was subsequently controlled by various powers – Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Jews, Arabs, Mamluks, Christians, Turks, Napoleon, British etc. (not necessarily in that order!).

In 1947 when the UN plan to divide Israel and Palestine was declared, Jaffa, being a Arab town, was designated as an Arab enclave inside Jewish Israel. Riots followed and in 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Jews conquered Jaffa. Arab residents fled. In 1954, Tel-Aviv and Jaffa were united under a municipality and Jaffa, or Yafo as it is called today, was converted to a cultural and historical center.

Today, Yafo has a mixed population of the three religions of the book.

Welcome to Jaffa – the place from where I blogged months ago.

Seen in the picture is the clock tower of Jaffa, a monument erected in the first decade of 20th century in honor of the Ottoman Turks. By local standards, this is a brand new structure! In the old days, the clock square served as a welcome plaza to people who arrived to the town. There are markets (called shuk/ΰ€Άΰ₯‚ΰ€•ΰ₯) and narrow streets all around.

Tourism:

Parts of the Old City have been renovated, turning Jaffa into a tourist attraction featuring old restored buildings, art galleries, theaters, souvenir shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and promenades. Several remodeling projects were underway and I think the government is actively promoting this area as a pleasant drive away from the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv. Large number of visitors are seen during evenings and weekends, hanging out on the spiraling paths looking over the Mediterranean sea.

The old town itself is a maze of narrow stone streets and buildings. There were expensive cafes, restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and even a couple of museums. There are a couple of Churches and chapels, remainants of the Crusader era and a large Mosque that broadcasts a melodious morning azaan. The views of modern Tel Aviv are breathtaking.

Doing ‘nothing’ in Jaffa

Since I was very stressed at the end of my travels and work, I simply cooled off for two days and did nothing but hangout on the stone façades soaking the breeze from the sea.

One of my most pleasant memories was having a breakfast in a rundown eatery. It was full of cab drivers are wage workers but the food was heavenly. Simple pita bread, spiced hummus, falafel, fried eggplant and other assorted vegetables. Inspite of having similar kind of food for two weeks, this place somehow remained etched in my memory. I watched people moving stuff in carts and shouting from one end of the street to the other, signaling by hand gestures that the truck can pass. It made a great animation while writing my journal and sipping endless cups of mint tea. Occasionally someone would pass by and say hello. A simple ‘Walikum es salaam‘ reply would bring a wide grin on their faces.


Series to be concluded in the next post.

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery