The ancient port city of Jaffa is one of the oldest cities in Israel and one of the oldest sea ports in the world.
Legend claims it is named for Noah’s son Jefet, who is said to have settled there after the flood. Still others cite the similarity between Jaffa or Yaffo in Hebrew and Yaffa, the Hebrew word for beauty.
The multiple layers of human civilization that comprise its ancient tell (or mound), have yielded up discoveries as unique as an Iron Age altar with a lion’s skull. Ancient Egyptian papyrus tells of the city’s conquest by Pharaoh Thutmose III in the 15th century B.C.E. Thutmose’s general used his own version of the Trojan Horse by sending baskets of gifts to the king of Jaffa with Egyptian soldiers hidden inside.
Later Jaffa is mentioned in the Bible as the port through which Solomon brought cedars of Lebanon to build the Temple. Jonah set sail from Jaffa’s port, when he sought to flee the Lord and was swallowed by a whale. In the New Testament, Jaffa was the home of Simon the Tanner, on whose roof Peter had a vision that changed Christianity’s relationship to Judaism ever since. In Greek mythology, a rock at the entrance to Jaffa’s port is where Perseus saved Andromeda by slaying the Hydra.
Today Old Jaffa is home to many galleries, its charming alleyways, street art and terrific views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean coast make it a great place to explore and enjoy a later afternoon stroll. During the summer months a series of performances is held in the old town known as Jaffa Nights. If you choose to visit Old Jaffa, don’t miss the sculpture with a live suspended orange tree at the end of Mazal Arye Street.