Tel Aviv – Jaffa – out and about in the old town

From Jerusalem we took a bus to Tel Aviv and then a taxi to Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s ancient port that sits on a promintory overlooking the sea and the rest of the city.

I’d chosen an AirBnB apartment in Old Jaffa to get a flavour of the atmospheric old town. In terms of location it was a good choice because we were opposite a famous bakery (see next post) and near the famous Shuk Ha Pishpishim flea market. The actual apartment however, while being quaint, wasn’t as comfortable or convenient as a modern flat in the new town would be, so that’s something to consider when deciding where to stay. My Google map here.

Also known as Yafo, the port has been in use for over seven thousand years, predating the Jews, Christians, Muslims and even the Egyptians, making it one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean. It is mentioned in both the Greek myths and the Biblical stories. A variety of different kinds of architecture reflect the different civilisations that have passed through.

The area around Kdumin Square in particular has several old buildings.

There are a few more recent historical facts and dates that everyone, especially Brits like me, should know about when they come to Jaffa. To begin with, the city became part of the British-administered Palestine Mandate (1922–1948) after British troops defeated the Ottomans in 1917, during World War I.

Although Jews and Arabs had lived peacefully together for centuries, tensions between the two communities increased during the British Mandate.

After Arab riots in 1921, in which 47 Jews were killed, many Jewish residents fled and resettled in Tel Aviv, which was initially just a minor Jewish neighborhood to the north of Jaffa.

In 1939 the British retaliated against an Arab uprising by using massive gelignite charges to destroy at least 220 buildings, cutting a swathe right through the middle of the old town, leaving over 6000 Arabs homeless in the process. After years of fighting and unrest, the State of Israel was proclaimed in May 1948, with Britain’s blessing, and Jaffa was part of the first Arab-controlled land to fall under Jewish control in 1949.

Nowadays though, while Jaffa is still home to a predominantly Arab population, the picturesque cobblestone streets are peaceful, belying the tumultous history. The flea market area is popular with young people for its vibrant nightlife and restaurant scenes. Artworks abound.

Although I wasn’t always sure what they were about.

Some good places to eat in Jaffa next…

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