Jaffa, Israel – As our travels continue it may become very obvious that I am a sucker for a good walking tour. I love hearing about the history of the places and find that a walking tour at the beginning of a trip can you give a good idea of what else to see and research during that trip.
When I found out we were going to Israel I promptly looked up tours and found this amazing free tour of Jaffa ,a 4500 year old city located just down the beach from Tel Aviv.
It is hard to decide which stories about the city to share in its long history so much has happened there. I have included some pictures and stories of the beautiful city.
The Tour met at the clock tower which unfortunately in under construction and we were unable to see the whole thing. However, our guide still told us the story of why this clock tower was built. The tower was built in 1900 for Ottoman Sultan Abd-al Hamid II’s silver jubilee (25 years). This clocktower was one 100 built for the jubilee and only 7 still stand today.
At the time, there was a train station near where the clock tower was going to be built. A wealth Frenchman by the name of Joseph Moyal lived in the building with the red awning in the picture below. As one of the wealthiest men in Jaffa Mr Moyal owned a watch. Daily, people would knock on Mr. Moyal’s door and ask him for the time so they would not miss their train. When the clock tower was going to be built Mr. Moyal agreed to fund a large portion of the tower hoping to stop these daily visits. However, upon the completion of the tower, it became apparent that the citizens could not tell time so the clocktower although beautiful did little to alleviate Mr. Moyal’s daily visitors.
The picture below was built outside of the walls of Jaffa. The story behind its construction goes, the governor, Abu-Nabbut was locked out of the walls one night and had to spend the whole night on the beach out with drinking water. In the morning when the guards finally opened the door to the city Abu-Nabbut decided he would build this new entrance which provides drinking water to the people of Jaffa even if they are locked outside of the city. You can see that the lower three arches have spigots (also who knew this word was spelt this way?!) on them. These still work today, before eating lunch I washed my hands here and saw many people using it throughout the day.
We then headed into the narrow winding streets of Jaffa.
Along the ocean are the Andromeda rocks. The story behind these rocks comes from Greek Mythology. The story goes that King Cepheus and Queen Cassiope of Jaffa bragged about the beauty of their daughter Andromeda. They eventually offended Poseidon by saying Andromeda was more beautiful than his daughters. In revenge Poseidon sent a sea monster that attacked Jaffa and could not stop. The King and Queen sought the advice of an oracle who told them that in order to appease Poseidon they would need to sacrifice their daughter. Wanting to save their people the King and Queen agreed and tied Andromeda to a rock in the sea. Meanwhile, Perseus who was in love with Andromeda heard about this sacrifice and hurried to rescue Andromeda. He had just slayed Medusa and was in such a hurry to save Adromeda was still holding on to Medusa’s head when he came to unchained Andromeda. While he was unchanging her the sea monster looked Medusa in the eye and turned to stone. These rocks are said to be the stone sea monster.
As we walked into the city we came upon a large wooden door written on top it reads “House of Simon the Tanner.” This is the house of Simon the Tanner who St. Peter stayed with during his time in Jaffa. During this stay, St. Peter had a dream that lead him to begin to preach to a wider community (Acts 10:6).
Today an Armenian Christian family, the Zakarian’s live in the house and have lived there for generations. The family is in charge of maintain the lighthouse you can see the picture on the right.
A side note, in Jewish law it is written that a woman married to a tanner (and a few other professions) can ask for a divorce because of the nature of the job, a tanner works with animal feces.
In 1799 Nepoleon having conquered much of North Africa moved north. On his way to Acre he passed through Jaffa and sieged the place. After successfully conquering the town he was left with many prisoner who he decided to have killed. Over 4,000 people include women and children were killed.
He moved him army north to Acre but here was stopped. Having lost he had to travel back into Jaffa. Having left over 4,000 bodies in the city he was greeted with a city full of disease and many of his men caught the plague. He decided to keep these men quarantine in the building you see in the picture below on the right. Napoleon decided to slip his men poison so they could not spread the disease.
The picture on the right is a paining of the incident called Bonaparte Visiting the Pesthouse in Jaffa by Antoine-Jean Gros (1804). In this painting Napoleon is depicted visiting the sick men and taking care of them.
Today this building is part of an Armenian Monastery called, Saint Nicholas Monastery.
Okay, I have bored you enough with the stories. Here are some quick shots from around Jaffa.
Throughout Jaffa you can find zodiac signs. In the main square there is a fountain showing the signs as well.
Reading wish list:
Innocent abroad, Mark Twain
The Old New Land, Theodor Herzl
The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East, Abraham Rabinovich
Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories, Ghassan Kanafani
City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa, Adam LeBor