I have visited Old Jaffa (official site) many times but never wrote a complete day tour. This post will cover many attractions in Jaffa but not all of them. There are museums which we didn’t visit, flea market and other points of interest.
Map of the area:
I won’t give a full historical survey (you can find it on the official site), I will just say that Jaffa is one of the ancient port cities in Israel and the Mediterranean basin. And by looking at this view of Jaffa, you can see two reasons for this spot becoming a port:
The closeness to sea is apparent, but Jaffa is located on a hill. Most places in this area that are close to the sea are at sea level. A mountain makes it easier to defend the city. And another reason is water. In ancient times there was a river on the other side that supplied the town with water.
There are several more cannons around the old Jaffa, and they serve as a reminder of Napoleon’s visit to this area.
And after a short walk, we reached St. Peter’s Church.
St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church sits at the top of the Jaffa Mound, at a strategic spot, and has served as a Christian center for thousands of years. Underneath the church and to its side are the remnants of a crusader fort, underneath which a Byzantine church is buried. The fort was part of the city citadel during the reign of Louis IX, king of France. In the church, courtyard stands the statue of Louis IX, who was canonized in Christian tradition for his part in the crusades.
According to accepted history, the church also hosted the French general Napoleon when he stayed in Jaffa during his campaign in Israel in 1799.
The church is vast and is noted for its splendor. It was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century in the Baroque style, with a long nave and a vaulted ceiling. As opposed to most churches which face east, St. Peter’s faces west, towards the sea, where Peter’s famous dream took place, and towards Rome, where he was sent later.
The walls of the church are decorated with oil paintings depicting the Fourteen Stations of the Cross and St. George fighting the dragon. Over the altar is a depiction of Peter’s visitation in a dream by the angel Michael.
Source: Official Site
The Zodiac Fountain was made by the sculptors Varda Ghivoly and Ilan Gelber in 2011. The fountain, located in Kdumim Square, bears chalkstone sculptures of the twelve zodiacs in fascinating, original designs.
The fountain combines effects of water, lighting, and stonework, and completes the representation of the twelve zodiacs in Old Jaffa. The constellations also appear in the street names of Old Jaffa and the Wishing Bridge connecting Jaffa Hill with Kdumim Square.
As part of the digging work for the fountain, the Antiquities Authority conducted a salvage excavation at the site. The dig was managed by Mr. Diego Barkan of the Antiquities Authority. The digging exposed architectural elements of the Ottoman period, including remnants of structures, walls and floors, and a tiled yard containing a water reservoir, and constructed roofed aqueducts.
The findings found under the fountain corroborate an old legend mentioning the existence of a magical wishing well located in this very place. Anyone who tosses a coin in it and makes a wish has the wish fulfilled on the spot.
Source: Official Site
Yemenite Art Center
Next, we headed to The Wishing Bridge. Unfortunately, it undergoes reconstruction (note: as of May 2017 it is open). At the entrance to The Wishing Bridge you can find this stone mosaic of the zodiac:
At the top, at Hapisga Garden, you can find The Gate of Faith
The Gate of Faith
A large statue, made of Galilee stone, was sculpted by the sculptor Daniel Kafri of Jerusalem between the years 1973-1975. The statue stands at the top of the Peak Park in Old Jaffa.
The statue, of two 4 meter tall pillars upon which rests a stone, also 4 meters in length, resembles a gate. The sculpted entrance is the gate of entry to the Land of Israel and represents the promise of the land to the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
On the two pillars appear the three Patriarchs – who received the promise – and the top stone signifies the beginning of that promise’s realization via the capture of Jericho and the Land of Israel by Joshua.
The first pillar recounts the tale of the binding of Isaac. That is an extraordinary portrayal of the binding – Abraham is seen kneeling on the ram, and holding up his son Isaac. Isaac lies with his face, resembling Abraham’s, turned upward.
The second pillar depicts Jacob’s dream, where the land was promised to his offspring. Jacob rests on the ground, and the stone is under his head. Above him are two angels, one ascending and one descending, facing opposite directions, and the rhythm of the wings creates an association with a ladder.
The top beam represents the realization and depicts the capture of Jericho. The priests surround the city of Jericho, holding horns and are seen carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
Source: Official Site
The most ancient remnants that were discovered in Jaffa are the remnants of a glacis that surrounded the hill during the 18th century B.C.E. (the Second Middle Bronze Age). The remnants from this period, the period of the Egyptian conquest, attest that Jaffa was a city under Egyptian control on the model of other cities in Canaan.
In the central excavation area that is currently located in the Ramses Gate Garden remnants of a community from the close of the 17th century and the first half of the 16th century B.C.E. were discovered.
From the Late Bronze Age (the latter half of the 16th century and the 15 century B.C.E.) the remnants of buildings that were built out of bricks on stone foundations were discovered.
From the Late Bronze Age (13-1400 BCE) three layers of the settlement were discovered: In the lowest layer, the remnants of structures and a granary built out of unhewn stones were discovered. Above it, we find the remains of an entrance gate to a luxurious palace from the period of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II (1237-1304 B.C.E.). The artwork of the gate was built out of hard and chiseled sandstone in which hieroglyphics bearing the titles and portions of the name of Ramses II are engraved. The walls were built out of bricks. And on top of them are remnants of the gate (the bronze axle of a wooden gate has been found) and the Egyptian fort that were destroyed in a vast conflagration (the end of the 13thCentury and beginning of the 12th Century B.C.E.)
And in this context, it’s worth mentioning
Some externally written testimonies referring to Jaffa have survived from this era, and they are:
The Harris papyrus that describes the conquest of Jaffa by stealth by the Army of the Pharaoh Thutmose III (1450-1504 B.C.E.) by providing a gift in the form of large jugs in which Egyptian soldiers were hidden to governor Jaffa, which enabled the city’s conquest from within.
The city appears in a list of towns conquered by Thutmose III at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt.
Remnants of official letters engraved in cuneiform on mud tablets that were discovered in the Pharaonic Archives at Tel el-Amarna in Egypt where the granaries of the Pharaoh in Jaffa were mentioned. At Tel Afek (near Rosh Ha’Ayin) a similar letter where Jaffa is mentioned was discovered.
The Papyrus Anastasi describes an expedition by a courtier in Canaan and includes a description of Jaffa, its gardens, and residents at the close of the 13th century B.C.E.
Source: Official Site
Floating Orange Tree
Among the city streets of old Jaffa is a hidden work of Morin’s known as the Floating Orange Tree. Finished in 1993, this is a small orange tree that is elevated off of the ground by a large earthenware jug hung by metal chains from the walls of houses nearby. The tree is growing out of the pitcher, trying to break it. Morin sought to emphasize the developing world of separation between man and nature, as “creatures that grow in containers.”
This statue is hung only a foot or so off of the ground – enough to see its shadow, but not so high that it seems about to fall down.
As you pass through old Jaffa (to south) you will reach The Ilana Goor Museum. Nearby, you can find this sculpture of a whale by Ilana Goor. The Smiling Whale sculpture inspired by the bible story of Jonah and the whale.
From there we went toward The Clock Tower. Not far from the Clock Tower you can find Abulafia bakery (I wrote about it here). And we got. Not sure there is a name, but it is a round bread with a variety of toppings (20 NIS each).
The Clock Tower
The clock tower was built in 1901 in the center of Jaffa’s town square.
The clock tower in Jaffa is one of seven clock towers built in Israel and of the hundred clock towers built in the Ottoman Empire in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the reign of the Turkish sultan Abdul Hamid the Second. The towers were made as part of the new reforms guided by the sultan, to conduct the empire’s cities by precise, Western timetables.
According to the local tale, the tower was built at the initiative of Yossef Moial, a wealthy Jew of Jaffa, who erected the clock tower to save himself pestering by pedestrians who would come into his shop to ask the time on their way to the train station.
Four clocks were installed in the tower – two of them showing the time in Europe, and two of them the time in Israel.
Source: Official Site
Note: there are several public restrooms in this area. The ones that are easiest to find is in front of St. Peter’s Church and next to The Clock Tower (in a small alley to the east).
From the clock tower, we returned to our car and headed home.
So far we mostly covered Old Jaffa, but there are things to see further away as well. On one occasion we continued along Yefet street to the south. We saw Collège des Frères de Jaffa, a French international school, and the “Turret Building.”
“Turret Building” is located on Yeffet 27. The building designed for the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The nuns built it after leaving the walls of the old city in 1883-1917. The original purpose of the building was French – Catholic high school for girls. And today the Turret Building serves as a hotel.
Further ahead on Yefet street you can find St. Anthony’s Church.
St. Anthony’s Church
St. Anthony of Padua Church or simply Church of St. Anthony, stands out for its Gothic Revival style and its clock tower. It was named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua a priest of the Franciscan Order, Portuguese preacher, and theologian, venerated as a saint and Doctor of the Church by Catholicism.
The structure was completed in 1932. The church is mainly used by foreign workers mostly from the Philippines. On the north side of the church is the Terra Sancta high school run by nuns.
Religious services are offered in Arabic and English.
Jaffa is one of the oldest port cities in the Middeterenian area. It is a beautiful place to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere. If you love history, there is plenty of it. Either take a guide or join a guided tour.
Though I name this post “A Day In Jaffa” a typical visit that covers the highlights would vary from several hours to a half day.
And if you love old cities in Middeterenian style, then definitely visit Jaffa.
Have you ever been to Jaffa? What is your favorite POI? Tell us in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional attractions nearby see Tel Aviv-Yafo page.