Jaffa

Jaffa

Where to begin with this fascinating brew of old and new? Of exotic and practical? Of East and West? Of Muslim, Jewish and Christian? Songs and poems have been written about this mystical port city, where camels toted merchants' wares and treasures to ships for export at a port which also imported goods for both the residents and many a conquering army over the centuries.

Today Jaffa is connected by a hyphen and by the gentrified Newe Zedek neighborhood on the shoreline to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, Jaffa being the port where Jews disembarked from ships in the late 19th century and settled in among the Arab residents, mainly peacefully but not always, before expanding to “Akhuzat Bayit” with sixty-six families in 1909. This new off-shoot of Jaffa of course became the first new city of the Jews, “Tel Aviv” (Hill of Spring).

Tel-Aviv - Jaffa

Jaffa existed as a port city some 4000 years ago and can accurately claim to be the only port in the world with docks leading to an uninterrupted lifeline. There are fascinating sites to see in the Jaffa of now as there were in the days of yore.

“Shuk HaPishpashim” is a flea market, literally, and aptly named in Hebrew, for the fleas that used to plague the stalls that sold racks and racks of old clothes. Today, nearly anything can be found in the crowded streets that make up the flea market, intersecting with the famous Clock Square at the northern end of the town, just a half-mile or so going south past the recently re-opened Jaffa-Jerusalem railway station, dormant and hidden since 1948 on the left. The site, close to the Carmel fruit market, is now a museum-like space, with remnants of the track, renovated German Templar buildings, galleries, upscale restaurants and boutique shops. An ice-skating rink was recently installed, a treat for locals as well as visitors from abroad.

The “brew” continues as one passes the Etzel Museum on the right literally on the beach, before reaching the fork in the road leading to Yefet Street, beginning at the Clock Tower, erected in 1906 by the Turkish Sultan Abed el-Hamid II, and the famous (and delicious!) “Aabulafia” bakery on the right, with the left fork leading to Jerusalem Boulevard. The Gesher Theatre, once a temporary home to the opera house, draws audiences from all over the country. And let’s not forget sport; Bloomfield Stadium is an easy javelin throw from the entrance to Jaffa.

Once in the heart of Jaffa, one continues to be greeted by a mix of cultures and religions, an unexpected miniature version of multi-cultural communities found elsewhere in the world. The Adjami neighborhood – made famous by the Oscar-nominated film – is the home to many important churches of various denominations that serve the community and coexist peacefully with the Jews and Muslims in the neighborhood. The Old City itself, nestled in the cliffs of the sea, are reminders of the ancient times with their polished stone alleyways that host art galleries, cafes and boutique fashion stores. The Ilana Goor Museum greets the guests mounting the slope to the cluster of restaurants and shops overlooking the port, which is now a home to fascinating new enterprises, such as the “Na Laga’at Center” with its amazing staff of hearing and vision-impaired professionals and the Mayumana troupe to name a few.

You may also find the following places interesting:

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