The Old City of Jaffa
Tel Aviv is really quite a new city. It was created in 1909 by Jewish people living on the outskirts of the ancient city on the hill called Jaffa. Prior to 1909, Tel Aviv was just sand, desert, and camels. All that is here has been developed in just the last 110 years. What has been here for centuries was Jaffa.
Jaffa, as it exists today, was occupied by the Turks for the last 400 years, so what we see was mainly built by the Turks. Now, it is a multi-city, comprised of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, all living together. In Israel, there is no separation of church and state. The entire country obeys the laws of the Jewish religion. All holidays and calendars follow suit…for example, Sabbath is on Saturday, the first day of the week is Sunday, and there is no celebration of Easter or Christmas.
Israel doesn’t have amazing architecture, or extreme natural beauty, or wonderful buildings. What is does have unique to any other place on earth is the Bible. It is here in Jaffa, we start to see the stories of the Bible coming to life.
In the 8th century BC, Jaffa was the city where God commanded the prophet Jonah to carry the words of God to the ancient city of Nineveh. Instead, he fled to the ancient sea port in Jaffa where he tried to escape on a mariner ship. When a great storm threatened their safety, the mariners threw Jonah overboard, where he was swallowed by a whale in Jaffa Harbor.
Saint Peter was living here in Jaffa when he had a dream where God showed him a vessel full of “unclean animals” and told him to eat them. Peter declined three times because his Jewish faith had told him he could only eat the animals that were cloven hooved and chewed their cud (remember from yesterday?). God had told him that no animals were unclean, and from then on, the Jewish Christian believers could disregard the food laws that had been in place for the Jews since the time of Moses. They built St. Peter’s church on this site to honor him.
This beautiful modern sculpture tell another well known Bible story by its detailed carvings, but also by its location and shape.
In old times, Jaffa was Israel’s only port of any size. It was the way for many people and products to come into and exit the rest of Israel by means of the sea. On land, ancient cities were often walled and entrance came through the city gate. This statue represents the gateway between Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
The carvings in the pillar on the right represent Abraham and his binding Isaac for sacrifice (notice the ram at the base of the pillar). The engravings on the pillar on the left portrays Jacob’s dream of the ladder to heaven. The cross-piece on top, the lintel, depicts the conquering of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites. God’s promise first made to Abraham flowed through Isaac, and Jacob, and began to be realized through Joshua. God instructed them to be fruitful and multiply to create his nation…this spot is that gateway, from ancient Jaffa, into what was once the desert, and now is the prosperous Tel Aviv, where the Jews have become their nation.
We spent the afternoon wondering through the a bustling farmers’ market and ancient bazaars. I always love these…there are so many surprises of what people eat in distant, far away places and I always find myself saying “what is that?!”