The port of Jaffa is where the first Jewish settlers of the late 1800s and early 1900s landed when arriving in the land of Israel. Visit this part of the greater Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality on your Israel tour for a taste of the ancient character and modern spirit.
An Ancient City
Jaffa is one of the world’s oldest cities, with a harbor that has been in use since the Bronze Age. The city’s history is connected to a series of successive conquests that rocked Israel through the millennia. In biblical times, Jaffa was ruled by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Philistines and other ancient peoples. The tribal Israelites of the post-Exodus period enjoyed a period of rule that was interrupted by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians and other conquerors. The Romans captured and destroyed Jaffa during Maccabean times, slaughtering thousands as well.
The Many Conquerors
During the Middle Ages, Jaffa came under Arab control and served as a major regional port and provincial capital. The Crusades marked a violent period with fighting between the Christian forces and Saladin who tried to keep the area from falling to Christian rule. When the city came under the control of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, it was in ruins. Jaffa was slowly restored but local residents left during the 18th century due to pirates who took control of the port. World War One brought British control with the Mandate period that lasted some 28 years, until Israel’s independence in 1948. Following Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, Jaffa became part of the new State of Israel, and then was folded into the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
Today’s Jaffa is a city with a diverse population of Jews, Muslims and Christians. Currently undergoing a wave of gentrification, Jaffa is a socio-economic mix of young artists, new wealth and older, less affluent inhabitants. Culturally, Jaffa has become a place where creative types of all kinds live, work and set up shop, making its streets a maze of discovery – with galleries, theaters, restaurants, a flea market and an antique district – for the curious visitor.
Summit Hill and the Artists’ Quarter
Summit Hill rises above the Jaffa port, with commanding views of the Mediterranean coast to the north. Nearby is St. Peter’s Church, a 19th century Franciscan Church built on the ruins of a Crusader fortress. Visit Beit Zunana, a Libyan synagogue from the 18th century, now a museum. Wander the beautiful gardens and pathways of Old Jaffa and the Artists’ Quarter.
Jaffa Flea Market
Just past Jaffa’s Clock Square is the open and covered flea market, or Shuk Hapishpushim, as it’s called in Hebrew. A mix of antique furniture, bric-a-brac, new and secondhand clothing, there are finds to be had for the bargain shopper. The flea market is a popular attraction for both Israelis and tourists and is open Sunday — Thursday, 9:00 am — 5:00 pm and Friday, 9:00 am — 2:00 pm.
Where to Eat in Jaffa
Jaffa’s ethnic mix of locals means a varied restaurant scene. Take your pick from a range of fancier establishments to simple diners serving grilled fish and meat alongside Middle Eastern staples of hummous and salads.
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