The Sister City of Tel Aviv

Yafo or Jaffa Israel is not an independent city. It is part of the big metropolis of Tel Aviv. Here we are going to talk about this ancient biblical city of many names as Joppe or Joppa in the Bible, Yaffa in Arabic and Jaffa in English.

Seating next to Tel Aviv is the Old City that goes back thousands of years. Archaeological evidence shows that Jaffa was inhabited some 7,500 years BCE. The harbor has been used since the Bronze Age. It was once conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt and was under Egyptian control until 800 BCE.

The Clock Tower is a symbol of Old Jaffa

Places of interest in Yafo

The old buildings are now home to many restaurants, shops and art galleries. There are many promenades and sidewalk cafes.

  • Old Jaffa Museum
    The Museum is located in an old Ottoman building built in the 18th century. The place, the old Ottoman House is named Ancient Saraya.
    It started as a museum in the 1960’s by the late Dr. Kaplan one of the archaeologists of the Jewish State that excavated in Jaffa. It contains archaeological findings dating to Neolithic age on up to recent times. Through the findings you can learn the history of Jaffa through all eras.
  • The Flea Market
    The Flea Market called in Hebrew Shuk Hapishpishim is a nice experience. The busiest day is on Friday. This is when the merchants take out their good to the streets for everyone to see.

    If you want to fee a real local, go to Humus al Haboker to enjoy a breakfast of humus, so early in the day. Or perhaps have some Café Hafuch (Cappuccino) in one of the sidewalk cafes.

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Aerial view of Yafo and the coast of  Tel Aviv

  • Old Jaffa
    Just walk around the narrow streets of Old Jaffa and visit Jaffa’s visitor’s center. If you feel artistic visit one of many galleries of art featuring local and international pieces of art.
  • Church of St Peter is off Kedumim Square. Outside the church a visitor’s center shows the history of the city.

  • Summit Park is an archaeological dig revealing a fortress build by Pharaoh Ramses II. Remember this is the one who got all the 10 plagues for not “letting my people go”.

  • Wishing Bridge – It contains the 12 horoscope signs. Legend says that if you touch one of the signs and ask for a wish while looking at the sea, it will be fulfilled. Also take advantage of the photo settings with views of St peter Church, the Tel Aviv skyline and the sea.

    This is one of the things I like doing when visiting a new city: finding a place where I can take panoramic pictures and I got intrigued about Tel Aviv when I was flying over it as my plane started the descent to Ben Gurion airport.
  • Old Harbor area – Like in Namal Tel Aviv they are working on a Tayelet of Boardwalk. There a few fish restaurants and cafes.

  • Jaffa Clock Tower – It stands in the middle of Yefet Street on the north of Jaffa. It is the most prominent landmark of Yaffo, since I can remember. In Hebrew it is simply called Hashaon (the clock).

The Flee Market is called in Hebrew "Shuk Hapishpishim"

Brief History of Yafo
It is mentioned in the Jewish Bible several times

  • As one of the cities given to the Dan Tribe. The area of Tel Aviv and surroundings is called Gush Dan or Dan Block for that fact.
  • As the port of entry of the Cedars of Lebanon brought by Kin Solomon for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • The place from where the Prophet Jonah embarked for Tarshish.

Several rulers throughout the years

  • Canaanite and Philistine domination.
  • King David and his son King Solomon conquered the city to use it as a port to bring the cedars for the constructions of the temple
  • Babylonian domination, Persian rule and even Alexander the Great
  • It was Hellenized for many years until taken over by Maccabean rebels
  • Roman occupation and destruction of the city and its inhabitants
  • Captured in 1100 after the First Crusade
  • Ottoman Period: In 1515 it was conquered by Ottoman Sultan Salim I
  • In 1799 Napoleon I of France conquered and ransacked the city killing many of its inhabitants.

Old Jaffa buildings host an array of galleries, shops and restaurants

Yafo became an important and successful city

Jaffa Israel developed into a successful city with many factories producing an array of products like candy, soap, olive oil, leather, and wine among others. Printing of books was a serious enterprise then.

In the middle of the 19th century the population of Yafo was about 5000 of them 1000 Christians, 800 Jews and the rest Muslims.

In those years the orange growing was in the hands of Arabs using old fashioned methods. The Jews brought in modern equipment and developed the famous Jaffa Oranges industry famous worldwide.

At the beginning of the 20th century the population of Yafo kept growing substantially. This is when a group of Jews left Yafo for the northern dunes and founded what today is Tel Aviv in 1909. Other suburbs around Tel Aviv were founded almost at the same time.

The Coastal Cannons with an impressive view of Modern Tel Aviv

The British Mandate

Jaffa kept growing but at a slower pace than Tel Aviv. The Jews of Yaffo either lived on the outskirts of the city or plainly moved to Tel Aviv. The city of Jaffa was predominantly Arab.

In the Arab revolt 1936-1939 the city was very affected with strikes and fighting. The British had to bring help from other places in the Mediterranean to control the situation.

By 1945 the city of Jaffa had 102,000 inhabitants 54% Muslims, 30 Jews and 16% Christians. The Christians were mainly Greek Orthodox and Catholic.

After Israel Independence

The first years of Independence and the war that erupted, saw lots of problems and fighting in Yafo that slowly calmed down and in 1950 the city was united with Tel Aviv on the north and became until today a unity called Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Now Yaffo has a heterogeneous population of Jews, Christian and Muslims living together in harmony. Parts of Old Yafo have been renovated turning the city into a prominent tourist attraction.

The Wishing Bridge
"Touch the bridge, Look to the Sea and Ask for a Wish"

Today, Yafo, Jaffa or however you want to call it is a thriving city very popular among Israelis especially on weekends, meaning Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. People from all around the area come here to have a good meal or just walk around and have a great time.

Needless to say that Yaffo is also a great tourist attraction at a walking distance from Tel Aviv hotels area.

From the Tel Aviv Hotels start walking south on the beach sidewalk and you’ll get to Old Jaffa.

Image Credits:
All by Dr. Avishai Teicher Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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