THE OLD CITY OF JAFFA
I would like to present to you today The Ultimate Full Tour Of Old Jaffa With a Tour Guide In Israel's description, Jaffa or Jaffa is Israel's oldest port in the Mediterranean and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The city is believed to be over 4000 years old.
Jaffa is one of those places where literally every stone “breathes history”, and sights can be found at every step. For Israel, this is of course the norm, but unlike the rather young Tel Aviv, which is a little over a hundred years old, the history of Jaffa goes back centuries, teeming with historical events and bloody wars.
THE HISTORY OF JAFFA
JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH THIS ANCIENT CITY REMEMBERS:
•The first written mention of the city is found in Egyptian chronicles dated to the 15th BC. In them, Jaffa is included in the list of cities captured by Thutmose III.
•It is believed that it was here that the beautiful Andromeda, the heroine of ancient Greek myths, was chained to a rock, given to be eaten by a sea monster.
•It was from here that the biblical prophet Jonah tried to run as far as possible from the will of the Highest.
•Biblical Noah built his ark here. And after the Great Flood, one of his three sons Japhet founded a city in this place.
According to the New Testament book "Acts of the Holy Apostles" in Jaffa, the Apostle Peter had a vision that determined the fate of the peoples of the world. And the righteous Tabitha (Joppa) was also resurrected.
For many years Jaffa existed thanks to the activities of the port, the ancient name of the port is Joppa. According to legend, King Solomon arranged supplies of Libyan cedar from the port of Jaffa for the construction of the future First Temple.
In the port which we will travel today on this amazing private guided tour of old Jaffa, ships moored, which delivered everything necessary for the life of the city's population, and a brisk trade was conducted. Precious goods (frankincense, myrrh, spices) were delivered here from the south of the Arabian Peninsula, which were later sent to Europe.
THE FAMOUS JAFFA PORT
The port of Jaffa reaches its dawn during the time of the Byzantine emperors when it becomes the main gateway for pilgrims arriving in the Holy Land.
The advantageous geographical position of the port was a "tidbit" that many world powers dreamed of possessing. It is not surprising that fierce wars were fought over the port for many centuries. The names of Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart, and Napoleon Bonaparte are inscribed in the history of Jaffa.
For several millennia, history has intertwined in this place with a huge number of events, people, and religions. Moreover, each the people who lived here built their temples, churches, mosques, and monasteries. Many of them are still functioning.
I would like to tell you in more detail about some of these events in the old private Jaffa tour, about the myths and legends of ancient Jaffa, as well as about the main attractions of the city after its unification with Tel Aviv.
1. THE ROCK OF ANDROMEDA
According to mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of the Ethiopian king Kefei and his wife Cassiopeia. And then one day Cassiopeia boasted that her daughter surpassed the sea nymphs in her beauty. The angry goddesses turned to Poseidon with a plea for vengeance. Poseidon fulfilled their prayer by sending a sea monster, which threatened the death of all Kefei's subjects.
The wrath of the deity could be pacified only if Kefey sacrificed the monster, Andromeda. The inhabitants of the city forced the king to decide on this sacrifice. Chained to the rock, Andromeda was left to the mercy of the monster. But everything ended well, Andromeda was saved, amazed by her beauty, the son of Zeus Perseus. And then he immediately married her.
The antique plot inspired the genius, Peter Paul Rubens, to paint the painting "Perseus Frees Andromeda". And the rock has since been named after her. According to legend, if you go down to the port, you can see the fragments of the very "Andromeda Rocks" sticking out of the water.
2. OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET JONAH
Jonah is a prophet who lived at the turn of the 8th - 9th centuries BC. Translated from Hebrew, "Yona" means - a dove. Jonah is the oldest Jewish prophet whose scriptures have survived to this day, and he is also the only Old Testament prophet who "tried to escape from the Lord."
And this very instructive story took place, according to the book of the prophet Jonah himself, in Jaffa. Then the Almighty ordered the prophet, Jonah, to go to Nineveh (the Assyrian capital on the territory of present-day Iraq) with the preaching of repentance and the prediction of the death of the city if its wicked inhabitants did not repent and did not change their behavior.
However, instead of doing the will of the Lord, the prophet Jonah boarded a ship and set off on a long voyage. The Lord, wishing to admonish Jonah, raised a violent storm on the sea. In horror, the shipbuilders cast lots to understand for whose sins the Lord wanted to punish them. The lot fell on Jonah and he confessed that he had sinned disobedience to the Highest. Jonah asked the shipbuilders to throw him into the sea, which they did. After which the storm immediately subsided.
But the prophet who found himself in the sea, at the behest of the Lord, was swallowed by a whale. And Jonah stayed in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. Without losing his presence of mind and considering this incident as a sign of inspiring hope, Jonah prayed fervently all this time, repenting of his sin and asking the Lord to forgive him. The Lord heard Jonah's prayer and commanded the whale to cast him out onto dry land. Seeing the light of day, the prophet Jonah gave thanks to the Lord, who delivered him from death.
After the incident, Jonah immediately went to Nineveh, to fulfill the will of the Highest, where his sermon was a resounding success. The inhabitants of Nineveh unanimously repented of their wicked deeds, the Lord forgave them and did not bring calamities to the city, which he had announced through the prophet. And Jonah, accompanied by the gratitude of the educated and forgiven citizens, withdrew in peace to his native land.
The moral lesson of this Old Testament story is this: jokes with the Creator are bad, but if you sincerely repent and surrender yourself to the will of the Highest, then God will answer your prayer.
In memory of this Old Testament story, a sculptural fountain "Smiling Whale" was created by the hands of the modern Israeli designer and sculptor Ilana Gur. The sculpture is one of the favorite subjects of photography for numerous tourists strolling through the ancient city of Jaffa on private guided tours.
3. APOSTLE PETER AND RIGHTEOUS TABITHA
According to the New Testament book "Acts of the Holy Apostles" two thousand years ago a girl named Tabitha lived in Jaffa. She was part of the local Christian community and one of the disciples of the Apostle Peter. During her lifetime, Tabitha sewed dresses and shirts for the poor and was known for her hard work and charity.
Suddenly Tabitha fell ill and died. Before the burial, the believers called on the holy Apostle Peter to come to Jaffa. Peter revived Tabitha by the power of prayer. The miracle he performed had a great impact on the inhabitants of the city, after which many of them believed in Christ. --Acts 9: 36-43.
Everyone was happy to host a miracle worker, and the doors of the houses of the richest and most influential townspeople of Jaffa were open to the apostle. Poor Simon the tanner decided to show hospitality, his invitation sounded like a bolt from the blue. The crowd froze in anticipation of what decision Peter would make.
The work of a tanner was considered shameful among the Jews, such a person had to touch the skins of killed animals every day, many of which were considered "unclean". Leatherworkers, like lepers, were avoided, as a rule, they were allowed to settle only outside the city wall.
Before meeting Jesus, Peter would have taken such an invitation as an insult or ridicule. But the apostle saw how Jesus treated people during his lifetime. He did not divide the Jews into evil and good, into poor and rich, he went to everyone who called him. And Peter decided to stay overnight in Simon's modest dwelling.
In the morning Peter went up to the roof of Simon's house to pray and suddenly felt a strong hunger. And he had a vision: a vessel descended from heaven, in which were "all the four-legged earthly, beasts, reptiles and birds of the air." A voice rang out: "Get up, Peter, kill and eat."
As a law-abiding Jew, the apostle refused to eat unclean and unclean things. But the voice was categorical: "What God has cleansed, you do not consider unclean." This was repeated three times, after which the vessel disappeared. (Acts 10:15).
Peter wondered - what would that mean? At that moment, three approached the gate of Simon's house, looking for the apostle. They conveyed an invitation from the pagan Roman centurion Cornelius to visit his home in the distant city of Caesarea. The laws of Moses forbade the Jews to draw close to the Gentiles, but the Holy Spirit told Peter: "go without doubting."
The house of Cornelius was full of family and friends of the owner, they listened to every word of the apostle and accepted his faith. And then Peter understood that the Holy Scripture is not only for the Jews, but it is also for everyone, and with a morning vision, the Lord commands to carry the word of God to the pagan world.
Upon Peter's return to Jerusalem, some reproached him for "going to uncircumcised people and eating with them." But the apostle's story convinced the fellow believers: God gives repentance to pagans, and Christians must carry the word of God to them. And then it was decided to accept Christianity not only for Jews but for everyone.
From that moment on, a chain of great events began that determined the fate of people. The apostles dispersed with the sermon in all corners of the then-known world, from Armenia to Spain. This is how the Ecumenical Apostolic Church was born, which became the foundation of European civilization.
THE VISIT OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE TO JAFFA
The bloodiest events in the history of Jaffa are associated with the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1798, General Bonaparte decided to follow the path of his idol Alexander the Great: from Egypt to India. After the successful conquest of Egypt, Napoleon continued his attack on Ottoman territories in the Middle East.
At the beginning of March 1799, his troops approached Jaffa. As Bonaparte himself later wrote: “There was an urgent need to capture Jaffa. It is the only port on the entire sea coast from Egypt to Palestine. It would be unforgivable to go to Jerusalem without capturing Jaffa. "
The city was surrounded by high walls reinforced with towers. Approaching the walls of Jaffa, Bonaparte sent two envoys (an officer and a trumpeter) to the commandant with the order to surrender the city. The parliamentarians were accepted, but after a while, the army saw with horror their heads, impaled on pikes, which were set on the two largest towers. Then the storming of the city followed.
Despite desperate resistance from the defenders, Jaffa fell. Four thousand Albanian mercenaries who were in the service of the Turkish sultan were captured by the French. They agreed to surrender only after a promise made by French officers that they would be spared their lives.
THE STORMING OF JAFFA BY NAPOLEON
Seeing so many prisoners, Napoleon was confused. There were no supplies to feed so many people, no free troops to escort them to Egypt, and he could not let them go, as he feared that they would join the army of Ahmed Al-Jazzar.
After several days of painful meditation, Napoleon gave the order to execute the prisoners. As a result, four thousand people were shot or stabbed to death with bayonets. “Never before has the war seemed to me such an abomination,” Napoleon wrote then in his letter to Paris.
The occupation of Jaffa was accompanied by a terrible massacre of the local population, the city was plundered and burned to the ground. In the streets and houses, there were unburied troupes, there was no one to bury them. It is not surprising that people in Jaffa do not like to remember Napoleon.
But the city took revenge on Napoleon, a plague epidemic began in Jaffa. This was one of the reasons why Napoleon, after two months of siege, could not take Akko, where he went after capturing Jaffa.
The French army brought with it a plague from Jaffa, which intensified every day. In addition to everything, remembering what Napoleon had done with the prisoners in Jaffa, the defenders of Acre, many of whom were also Albanians, were not going to surrender their positions under any circumstances.
The siege of Acre was the culminating episode of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt and Syria, after which he had no choice but to leave the Holy Land.
Today, Napoleon in Jaffa is only reminiscent of these figures, which are signs of tourist routes.
THE FRANCISCAN CHURCH OF ST. PETER IN JAFFA
In memory of these events associated with the name of the holy Apostle Peter, two churches were built and are still functioning in
Jaffa: Catholic and Orthodox.
Franciscan Church of St. Peter in Jaffa was built in 1654. According to one version, it stands in the very place where the house of Simon the tanner was located. The altar of this church, contrary to church canons, is located not to the east, but the west. Since it was from here that Christianity began to spread to Europe, and then throughout the world.
The Orthodox Church in honor of the holy apostle's Peter and Paul and the righteous Tabitha is located in Jaffa at the burial place of the righteous Tabitha. The temple was built on land belonging to the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova, during her only visit to Palestine in 1888, together with the Grand Dukes Sergei and Pavel Alexandrovich was present at the laying of the first stone in the foundation of the temple. Today it is the most beautiful and largest Russian-speaking parish in Israel.
JAFFA IN MODERN TIMES
In 1950, Jaffa was merged with Tel Aviv into a single city Tel Aviv - Jaffa, however, the city managed to retain its identity. The old city of Jaffa (Old City Jaffa) is quite consistent with its name because the translation from Hebrew "Yafa" means "beautiful".
Today, the historic part of Jaffa is considered a bohemian tourist destination, there is a flea market, art galleries, artists' workshops, art shops, salons, museums, theaters, and cafes.
The port in Jaffa has long been no longer used for its intended purpose, but rather plays the role of a tourist attraction such as local fish restaurants of Jaffa port. If you rent a boat or boat in the port, you can admire the views of Tel Aviv - Jaffa from the sea.
The main square of Jaffa is the Antiquities Square (Kikar Kdumim), to which a wide stone staircase leads. There is an information center, souvenir stalls, and restaurants. Here you can also see a figurine of the same Napoleon, pointing with his hand at the entrance to the underground archaeological museum of Jaffa.
JAFFA'S MAIN SQUARE - ANTIQUITIES SQUARE (KIKAR KDUMIM)
The museum has a remarkable collection of archaeological finds dating back to the era of Ramses II (15th century BC). Considering that excavations are still ongoing, the museum's exposition is regularly replenished with new exhibits (the address of the museum in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, 10, Mifraz Shlomo St.).
But the main tourist attraction of Antiquities Square is the Zodiac Fountain. The fountain looks quite amusing, with figures of 12 zodiac signs splashing inside it. The figures are made with such humor, kindness, and love that it is a pleasure to look at them.
FOUNTAIN OF THE ZODIACS
It is believed that this place used to be a "well of desires". The wish of the one who threw a coin into the well was sure to come true. It is not surprising that the fountain is very popular with tourists.
There is a belief that you need to make a wish, find your zodiac sign, and throw a coin so that it will hit it, and then the wish will certainly come true.
It also offers stunning views of the port and the Andromeda rock. On this private guided tour of Jaffa, I will be able to expand on the zodiac signs and astrology.
ZODIAC SIGNS QUARTER - THE BEATING HEART
On both sides of Antiquities Square, narrow streets with polished stones diverge into labyrinths. Walking along you feel like a resident of a real medieval city. There is no doubt that they are the main attraction of old Jaffa.
It is noteworthy that the streets are named according to the signs of the Zodiac and are united into the “Signs of the Zodiac” quarter. In this endless labyrinth, you need to find your zodiac street, touch the ceramic tablet with your hand, make a wish, and it will come true.
The unique atmosphere of Jaffa's old city attracts not only tourists but also creative people, including artists, sculptors, jewelers, and other intellectuals. This is especially true for the streets "Constellation Pisces" and "Constellation Leo". It is between these streets running parallel to each other that the "Artists' Quarter" is located. Art workshops, salons, galleries, and museums have settled down here. The most famous of which are:
FRANK MEISLER GALLERY
Frank Meisler (1929-2018) - is the world's most famous architect and sculptor, whose works are exhibited in Brussels, London, Moscow, and New York.
The Frank Meisler Gallery is a touch too real creativity. Looking at his works, including Pablo Picasso, Sigmund Freud, Solomon, Rembrandt, and even Vladimir Vysotsky, it is impossible not to feel the "hand of the master".
The sculptures by Frank Meisler are made of an alloy of metals, which are electroplated with silver plating and gilding. They are completely original, cannot be replicated, and have all the qualities of works of art. It is not surprising that many heads of government, top officials of states, and simply public figures consider it an honor to have his works in private collections.
In the gallery, almost every sculpture can not only be touched but also twisted, because many of them are a secret. Frank Meisler said that "no one is who he seeks to appear." And it is not surprising that in his sculptural portraits secret doors to the "inner world" of the heroes are suddenly revealed.
You can join the talent of the master and enjoy his masterpieces for free. Gallery address: Old Jaffa, Mazal Arieh st., 25.
Official site of the gallery: https://www.frank-meisler.com
THE ILANA GOOR MUSEUM
Ilana Gur is a famous Israeli designer, painter, and sculptor, whose work has long been known far beyond Israel's borders.
Remember her smiling whale sculptural fountain? So, the museum is located not far from the very sculpture. The museum, which is also her home, includes a collection of works by both Ilana Gur herself and her collection, consisting of more than 600 works of various genres by other authors. Among them are bronze sculptures, interior items, and jewelry. Museum address: Old Jaffa, Mazal Dagim St., 4.
GALLERY OF THE FARKASH FAMILY
(Farkash Gallery). This family-run gallery, named after its owners, is world-renowned. The largest collection of posters reflecting Israeli history has been collected here since its opening in 1948.
There are military posters, political propaganda forms, and even advertising movie posters. Among the exhibits, there are some very valuable ones. For example, one of the three surviving posters representing the country's Declaration of Independence is in this gallery. Gallery address: Old Jaffa, Mazal Dagim St., 5.
THE SECRET OF THE FLOATING ORANGE
If you walk to the end of Leo Constellation street and go beyond the arch, you can see a very unusual composition - "a soaring orange tree". This composition was created in 1993 by Israeli sculptor Ran Morin, it fits perfectly into the atmosphere of Jaffa and is considered a symbol of the city.
The composition represents an orange tree planted in an egg-shaped clay pot, which is attached with cables to the walls of neighboring houses. Thus, the tree appears to be floating in the air. The tree, by the way, is real, it blooms and bears fruit. And there is much more sense in this composition than it might seem at first glance. But why orange?
After the formation of Israel in 1948, the main source of income for the young state was the export of citrus fruits, especially the famous Jaffa oranges! In those days, Jaffa was buried in the greenery and aromas of orange groves, giving the world beautiful, juicy fruits. The Israeli Shamauti oranges were especially popular. Delicious, juicy, almost seedless fruits of this variety did not deteriorate for a long time, which made it possible to transport them over long distances.
I think that children who grew up in the USSR remember how they loved to eat insanely delicious "Moroccan" oranges with a "Jaffa" sticker for the New Year, without even knowing that they grew up in the blessed land of Israel. A joke on the theme that Cheburashka is from Jaffa, thanks to the famous "orange deal" concluded by N. Khrushchev in 1964 with Israel, could well correspond to reality.
In the late 70s of the last century, the Arabs poisoned the orange crop with mercury. The ensuing deaths of European children inflicted huge financial losses on Israel, and at the same time forced the country to turn from an agricultural economy to an economy based on intelligence. In which, by the way, Israel has managed to achieve incredible success. Today Jaffa is not surrounded by orange groves, but by the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv. But the memory of them remained, and the orange is still considered the symbol of the city.
Ran Morin was interested not only in history but also in philosophy when he created his "floating fruit". A tree in an “egg” reminds us how we are children, who grew up in stone reservoirs, in shells, torn off from the ground, from the roots of our ancestors, moving further and further away from nature, and how the ties between us are torn, sometimes completely and irrevocably.
There is another beautiful image that is usually associated with this sculpture: it is believed that the tree symbolizes the Jewish people, uprooted from their land and scattered around the world, but continue to live, fight and bear fruit.
Tourists in Jaffa like to tell another equally interesting legend about the "soaring orange tree", according to which a resident planted an orange tree on the land owned by the municipality. But local officials came and ordered the tree to be cut down since the law forbids planting trees on municipal land. Then this resident took and hung up the tree so that it did not touch the ground. And the officials were powerless because he did not break the law. It turns out that a way out can be found in any situation.
There are so many stories and legends associated with this amazing composition, which is the symbol of Jaffa. And this means that everyone will be able to choose for themselves exactly the one that they like the most.
THE GATE OF FAITH ON THE HILL OF JUBILATION
Above the Antiquities Square was the "Abrasha Park". The park is named after its founder, Abraham Shechterman, who, working in the 70s of the last century as the Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, advocated for Jaffa to become the pearl that it appears before us today.
The park is located on a picturesque hill, occupying the territory of two football fields, planted with date palms and other southern plants. It is believed that it was here that the biblical Noah built his ark, and it was from here, during the Great Flood, that he set sail on it.
At the top of the hill, there is an observation deck called the "Hill of Glee". Its name is since it is impossible to hide your admiration and glee at the sight of the landscapes that open to your eyes.
Here, at the top of the Hill of Glee, is the Gate of Faith - an Art Nouveau composition created in 1975 by sculptor Daniel Kafri, symbolizing the Jewish right to the Promised Land, promised by the Almighty.
The square arch consists of two 4-meter pillars on which a stone of the same length rests vertically. The whole composition is set on 2 stones taken from the Western Wall, which symbolizes a direct connection with the Temple. The arc tells about three biblical stories that are very significant for the Jews: the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, Jacob's dream, and the destruction of the walls of Jericho.
The first plot (column on the left) tells about the deed of Abraham, who, obeying the will of the Highest, decides to sacrifice his only son Isaac. At the same time, according to the sculptor's version, Abraham does not bind his son and does not raise a knife over him, but raises it in his hands, as if giving him to God. But at the last moment, the Lord cancels the sacrifice of Isaac and instead of him, a lamb will be sacrificed, which has been placed at Abraham's feet. As a result, Isaac will have a son - Jacob.
The second plot (right column) tells about Jacob's dream, to whom God promised the Promised Land. Two angels hover over the sleeping Jacob, one of which rises and the other descends, forming a ladder between heaven and earth (Jacob's ladder).
The third plot (horizontal column above) is dedicated to the capture of Jericho by Joshua. This was the first victory of the Jews after many years of wandering in the wilderness and it is associated with the acquisition of the Promised Land. In the upper part of the sculpture, the twelve sons of Jacob are depicted, forming the 12 tribes of Israel, and symbolizing the entire Jewish people. On one hand, they have shofars, on the other the Ark of the Covenant and swords.
The four-meter sculpture attracts tourists like a magnet. Many believe that it is capable of fulfilling wishes because it is not for nothing that it is installed on the stones from the Wailing Wall. To do this, you need to: among the many details of the sculpture, find the heels of Abraham (at the bottom of the arch on the left), touch them with your hand, and go through the arch. And then the desire will certainly come true.
THE BRIDGE OF DESIRES IN OLD JAFFA
There is one more place in "Abrasha-park" where it is customary to make wishes - the bridge of the Zodiac Signs, it is also called the "bridge of desires". On the railing of the bridge, there are handrails with the image of the signs of the zodiac. You need to find your sign, touch it with your hand, make a wish, and, looking at the sea, drown in it everything that hindered its fulfillment until this moment, and then it will certainly come true.
THE SUNDIAL OF JAFFA
Next to the Bridge of Desires, there is another amazing object that it is simply impossible not to tell about - this is a sundial. They are made in the form of a mosaic of 12 zodiac signs. To find out what time it is now you need to stand in the middle of the circle, turning to Virgo. And then, the falling shadow will indicate the exact time.
If you want to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city, then Jaffa is the perfect place for such a pastime. Uncovering all the secrets of the old city in one go is rarely possible, so travelers love to come back here again and again.
I hope that this full explanation was interesting and informative for you, and as soon as the borders open, be sure to come to wander the streets of old Jaffa with a private tour guide!