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Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa, or the Old City of Jaffa, is the historical part of Jaffa located in Tel Aviv.

The neighborhood is filled with art galleries and restaurants and is one of Tel Aviv’s main tourist attractions.

It actually is also my favorite part of Tel Aviv and where I spend most of my time when I take a day trip to the city.

Here you will find the Jaffa market and the flee market, both of which I love to explore.

The Jaffa market is a bazar where the flee market is filled with antiques you will rarely find in Israel.

If you walk along the coast with a local, you’ll likely be pointed out which rocks Andromeda was chained to as a sacrifice to the sea monster and how Perseus saved her on way back from slaying Medusa.

History

Jaffa was once a Canaanite and Philistine city which was conquered by Ancient Egypt.

In the story of the Taking of Joppa Pharaoh Thutmose III’s general Djehuty hid Egyptian soldiers in sacks carried by pack animals and sent them camouflaged as tribute.

Then, the the soldiers emerged and conquered the Canaanite city – this story predates the story of the Trojan horse.

Then after Canaanite and Philistine dominion, King David and King Solomon conquered Jaffa and used its port to bring the cedars used in the construction of the First Temple from Tyre.

Throughout history it has traded hands many times but Jews have lived in Jaffa since ancient times and Muslims since they conquered the Middle East in Medieval times.

Jaffa was later captured by Crusaders, recaptured by Saladin, and surrendered to King Richard the Lionheart.

It was taken by the Ottomans and in 1799 captured by Napoleon Bonaparte.

The traveler Jean Cotwyk described Jaffa as “a heap of ruins” when he visited in 1598.

In 1820, Isaiah Ajiman of Istanbul built a synagogue and hostel for the accommodation of Jews on their way to the holy cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed.

This area became known as “The House of The Jews” and redeveloped a Jewish community in Yaffa.

By 1839, at least 153 Sephardi Jews were living in Yaffa and their Rabbi for fifty years was Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi.

In the early 1900s the city became over populated and some Jews began to leave the city to create what is today known as Tel Aviv.

However, the city still had a population of over 20,000 Jews, and around this time Rabbi Kook became the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa.

During the British Mandate, tension between the Jewish and Arab population increased.

A wave of Arab attacks during 1920 and 1921 caused many Jewish residents to resettle in Tel Aviv.

In 1921, Arab rioters attacked Jewish residents and buildings killing 47 Jews and wounding 146.

Still, many young Jews who could not afford the housing costs of Tel Aviv stayed, and most of the Jewish businesses remained here.

In fact, by 1948, the Jewish population in Jaffa had actually grown to close to 30,000.

During the Israeli War of Independence, the Irgun and the Hagana gained control of the city.

After the war the Jewish sections of Jaffa became part of Tel Aviv and in 1950 the whole of the city was part of Tel Aviv.

Since the 1990s the Jaffa has become in many gentrified and is an artist colony.

Visit Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa is easily accessible by bus (though there isn’t a direct bus from Jerusalem) and can be walked to from many popular sections of Tel Aviv.

See the Old Jaffa website for a list of events taking place.

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