Jaffa is one of the oldest towns in Israel. According to tradition, Jaffa [Hebrew, Yafo] was established by Japheth, the son of Noah, and hence its name; however, it suffered many changes of fortune: the Phoenicians founded it, then the Romans acme, and rulers such as Baibars the Mamluk, Napoleon the French and more conquered and lost it. Each time they demolished and rebuilt it. The Turkish governor, Machmud Abu Nabut, was the one to instill a breath of life into it and impressive architecture from his time still embellish its stone-decked streets.
This trail might consume about half a day of your time, and you might want to prolong or shorten it and depending, pay a visit to the vivid flee market or just end it with a romantic evening walk.
How to Get There
For those who come from north: exit Ayalon Route at Rokach Interchange and drive westward on Rokach Blvd. to the sea. Follow it and cross the Yarkon River. Turn left at Rokach and continue on Yarkon St. Drive south alongside the Tel Aviv Promenade. After the Dolfinarium, arrive to northern Jaffa and take the Nachum Goldman St. after meeting with a street splitting and continue until the Clock-Tower Plaza.
For those who arrive from south: exit Ayalon Route at Kibbutz Galuyot Interchange. Continue on Kibbutz Galuyot St, and follow Derech Shlomo when it connects with Kibbutz Galuyot until the Clock-Tower Plaza. Park your vehicle on one of the side streets.
The Clock-Tower Square
You can’t miss the Clock-Tower which is positioned so central at the square. It was built at the 25th year from the inauguration of the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Recently it was restored, and today it is more beautiful than ever with its four clocks that were installed at the head of the tower. In past times, two of them were showing the time at Europe and the other two – the local time. The openings and windows of the tower are covered with gratings and a tablet was set about it with the story of Jaffa's history. In front and west to the Clock-Tower, you can see the Kishle, a jailhouse which was used by the Turks and British, and during the British mandate is served as a prison for detainees from Jewish undergrounds, the IZL and Lechi.
Continue to stroll up at Yeffet St., Jaffa's main street, until you come to Abulafia bakery. This bakery became one of the city's magnets, beyond being a simple bakery. Taste the fluffy pretzels which are seasoned with Za’atar and sesame. Return to the Square of the Clock-Tower and continue by foot westward at the street alongside the mosque.
The Yafo Hill
Jaffa was mentioned in the same breath with some of the oldest towns in the world and it is actually here, at this hill, that the ancient settlement was started. Today the hill hosts its 4000-years-old remains.
Continue to walk up the hill until you realize the big mosque of Jaffa, the Muhammad abu-Nabut, which is called after its restorer and after his habit to be always equipped with a big club, Nabut [Arabic]. This Governor used to stroke fear into the hearts of the whole city during the beginning of the 19th century.
At the mosque notice a curved water trough, savil in Arabic, which is built-in and protruds from the wall. The water of the trough was used to quench the thirst of passersby and caravans of camels. Its past glory is reflected by its outstanding size and by a dedication inscription for its builder.
Right bellow the minaret pay attention to the main entrance door and to a dedication inscription that was made in honor of the Turkish sultan that ruled during that time. It is recommended to enter if the mosque is opened, to visit its beautiful yard which is surrounded by praying rooms. Continue up the street until you come to an ancient building.
The Old Seraya
This edifice was used as an administrative center by all former governors of Jaffa (Seraya means governor house). It had then changed many hands but then a new Seraya was built (which is now occupied by a police station at the Clock-Tower Square) and the Damiani family, a Christian family that was headed by Mr. Damiani, the honorary consul of no less than four European powers, bought it. The Seraya became a factory for soap, and the soaps were manufactured on the lower floors and then were taken up to the roof for drying. Today one of the building rooms is occupied by thousands of bats.
Continue down the street and notice on your right side, very near the seashore, a small minaret, the Jami'a el-Bahar (=the mosque of the sea), that served Muslim sailors before they went out to the sea. You can swerve and visit it to enjoy the beautiful views of Tel Aviv from above; however, entrance to the mosque is forbidden due to some refurbishing works.
Return to the street and continue up until you meet with the central square, Kikar Kedumim. Notice, just before you enter the plaza, on your right side, the main Franciscan Church of Jaffa, St. Peter Church. It is allowed to visit the church, and it is recommended to drink its size and beauty in but they can be witnessed only from within; the church's outside walls are not so impressive due to the biting sea wind and rain that made it looking from the outside eroded and worn-out. Underneath the surface of the square, there is a nice and small museum for Jaffa's history.
Go to the western side of the plaza and take a view of the sea. Not faraway from the waterfront notice the cliffs of the famous Andromeda Rock. According to Greek mythology Andromeda was tied to these cliffs and was offered as a sacrifice to a sea-monster that the people of Jaffa wanted to appease. A moment before the sea-monster loomed from the depth to swallow her, the mythological hero, Perseus and his winged horse, gushed from nowhere and saved her from death.
Decide which of two alternative routes to follow:
Go down from Kedumim Square to the port through one of twelve picturesque lanes called the Zodiac Alleys. All of them lead to the sea and offer many galleries and dwelling places of artists and painters. Try to conform to a tradition that claims that if a person runs an alley which is identical to that person’s zodiac sign three times up and down while expressing a wish they will eventually fulfill their wish. Arrive at the Old Jaffa Port, one of the most ancient ports of the Mediterranean Sea, of which fishermen, like many before them, sail from it by boat and sell their catch at the dock.
The Head of Jaffa Hill
Continue with one of the allies up to the head of Jaffa Hill, which also offers an amazing view of the entire coastal strip, and the view of Tel Aviv with its high-buildings and coastline, until Herzliah, and in nice days even views up of Hadera. Climb the hill and come to a nice statue which is curved with details of three famous biblical stories. On the south side of the hill notice some remains from an archeological excavation. Here some of the most ancient remnants of Jaffa were excavated – an Egyptian city gates from around 3,500 BC. You can read more about it from the informative signs that were installed on the hill.
Descend back to the southern entrance of Kedumim Square and locate the Libyan synagogue between the Mazal Dagim alley [Pisces lane] and Mazal Arie [Leo] which was built here 260 years ago by the first immigrants that came here from Libya, a praying place which is still active to our days.
For those who want to swim in Jaffa shores, try Hof Aliya. Go back to the vehicle you left near the Clock-Tower Square, drive southward, up Yefet St. until the Behst St., then turn right, and continue westward to Kedem St., from which you turn right until Shtey Achayot St. There is enough parking space at its end to park the car. Enjoy the sight of the beautiful shore, Hof Giv'at Aliya, one of the most beautiful in Israel. This is one of the last beaches that are not developed yet, and neither hotel towers nor any other typical touristic features are built on the seaside. The enchanted and quite beach with its natural small blue bays and sand dunes offer also horse ridings and free parking. A few years ago, the Municipality of Tel-Aviv-Yafo built here an impressive promenade, which is well-designed and integrated with the seashore views (entrance and parking are free of charge).
Other sites in the Area
Andre Ice Cream Shop – one of the best in the entire Dan district. Simply drive down Yeffet St. until you'll see the name Andre on your right side. Park, buy and enjoy.
The Scottish Church - also located on Yeffet st. and is most interesting to visit during Saturdays and Sundays, if you’d be lucky enough, you can come over a wedding.
Nighttime – exploring old Jaffa at night can be a unique and romantic experience, and a visit in one of the many fish restaurants near the beach can be wonderful end for the evening, because as and along the lines of the popular song, there is nothing like Jaffa at nighttime…
Click here for the site of The Old Jaffa Development Corporation Ltd.
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