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Ancient Jaffa

Old City of Jaffa

Jaffa comes from the Hebrew word “Yafeh” which means ‘pretty’ and indeed it is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. A stroll around the Old City of Jaffa is a must for the first time visitor to this town. It’s winding little alleys restored to former glory have become the inspiration for its thriving artists galleries, and leads one down to the ancient harbour area with its very unique view of the ocean and the city of Tel Aviv. Under Jaffa’s central plaza a modern visitor’s centre can be found depicting the excavations of the oldest part of the town. Right next by is the Church of St. Peter commemorating his stay and miracle in the city. Simon the Tanner’s house is also only a short walk away.

 St. Peter's Church in Jaffa
St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa


History of Jaffa

The community, located on the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, is home to one of the oldest seaport cities in Israel and has a biblical history that dates back almost 4,500 years.  It is associated with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter as well as the greek myth of Andromeda and Perseus. It is also known for its oranges.

The town holds great importance to Jews, Moslems and Christians and in modern times enjoys a mixed Jewish Arab population of 30000 Jews and 16000 Arabs. Although it is widely known as a bastion of coexistence the area has been known for periodic violence, both for reasons of having higher crime rates but also due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authority.

Jaffa is mentioned as the home of the tribe of Dan (in the book of Joshua 19:46), in reference to the cedars of Lebanon related to the building of the first Solomons Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16), the story of Jonah the whale (Jonah 1:3) and for the construction related to the Second Temple (Ezra 3:7).

For the cities 16,000 Arabs (primarly Moslem)  the city is home to several mosques, the largest and most significant is the Mahmoudiya mosque, located by the Old City. It was built during the Ottoman period and is the third most important mosque in Israel.

The Christian visitor carries special importance due to Jaffa’s connection to the New Testament. Jaffa is primarily known as the town where the Apostle Peter is mentioned visiting Simon the Tanner, and in whose house he had a vision clarifying to him that also non-Jews can be accepted into the faith. It was also the place where Peter resurrected Tabitha. Jaffa is also mentioned in the Book of Joshua as belonging to the tribe of Dan, who were sea farers. Before becoming an important port city during the kingdom of King David, the town had been under Canaanite and Philistine rule, and was later occupied by Babylonians, Persians and Phoenicians before the shortlived Jewish rule of the Maccabeans. Upon their fall the Romans dominated, and it later went into the hands of various Muslim and Christian rulers. These many phases left their mark on the town, and several can be viewed in the excavations open to the public. Jaffa still has the feel of being an old town, and its winding alleys and stone houses emphasizes its Middle Eastern Identity. The city was central in history until recent times when neighbouring Tel Aviv became the main focal point due to its size. Today Jaffa is a city inhabited by both Jews and Arabs, sharing its cultural heritage, and its old city is being restored into its traditional style.

Travelujah Tips

The Jaffa Tales Visitor’s centre, situated inside Kedumim Square is open daily and showcases 5,000 years of history within one of the most ancient port cities in the world. Within the center you can tour the archaeological site; walk on the floating bridge and enjoy a virtual presentation that brings ancient characters to life, along with spectacular.

For tours (there is a fee) contact Jaffa Tales by phone: 03-6037686, 03-6037000, or by email:

The Jaffa fleamarket, known as the “Shuk Hapishishim” is open daily Sunday through Friday. The area is known for the array of antiques, housewares, and thrift stores. Over the last few years a number of artisans have opened and now the little side streets are  teeming with many different craft stores, fashion houses and designer studios. The area is also known for its variety of Arab, seafood and  other restaurants as well as homemade breads. Two places that are particularly note worthy include Abulafia, which is known for its variety of freshly baked breads topped with za’atar or stuffed with eggs or other ingredients. Dr. Shakshuka is also a longtime favorite restaurant of locals, known for its specialty egg dish, called Shakshuka.  The revived port of Jaffa also offers many dining opportunities. Another local favorite, Old Man in the Sea, is known for its seafood specialities and lovely seaside views.

A free guided tour of Jaffa is available in English every Wednesday. The meeting point is at the Clock Tower at 09.30, except on Jewish holidays.

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