Stories of Jaffa

Stories of Jaffa

 Stories of JaffaBy Markel YacovStory’s of Jaffa
We are standing here on the Jaffa Hill, or as we say in Hebrew – "TEL" Jaffo. From here we can see the entire Sea Shore. How did Jaffa turn into an important port, and how was this hill created?Sailors were roaming this sea from the dawn of History, and since this harbor with it’s natural bay and water break provided a very good shelter, they used to dock here on the way between Egypt and Syria in order to discharge some of their merchandise and then load on board local products, such as the Jaffa oranges.Before the compass was invented, seamen used to navigate by the sun or by the stars, but whenever there was cloudy weather, they didn’t have any means of telling where they were. Therefore, they used to sail at a very close range to the shore and to keep eye contact with the shore.

From time immemorial, Jaffa, an important strategic point on the highway between Egypt and Syria, was a target of many conquerors. To mention some of them,
we had the Phoenicians,
the Greeks,
the Romans,
the Byzantines,
the Crusaders,
the Mamluks,
the Turks,
the British
and not to forget, the Israelis.
All those who conquered the city, actually destroyed it and built a new one on top of it. That’s how this “Tel” was created, by layer after layer, from time of the bible and until nowadays.

Napoleon Canons
Napoleon came to Jaffa on March 1799, during his ‘middle east’ episode. He conquered the city in no time and literally destroyed it, so actually Jaffa as we know it today, is from 1800 and on. Then he tried to conquer Acre as well, but failed after several attempts. On his way back from Acre to Egypt by boat, his soldiers dropped the Canons along the shore, and these canons are the original ones used by Napoleon, positioned here as a memorial. Here we have a small canon and a bit further, next to St. Peter’s church is a larger one, a nine pounds canon. The cannons were operated by inserting black powder at the lower edge, putting an iron ball at the top and lighting up the powder thru a small hole, which caused it powder to explode and the explosion threw the ball
to a target up to a distance of about 150 meters. This is how they created a hole in the wall of Jaffa and burst into the city, and the rest is History.

Napoleon stayed in Jaffa about one or two nights. The monks here say that this is the room he slept in.

We are now in front of St. Peter’s Church. And as you may know, Jesus had 12 Apostles or rather students- faithful followers.
The 1st and most important one was Peter. According to the New Testament, after St. Peter got the key to heaven from Jesus he arrived here and performed his 1st miracle.

The miracle was that he brought alive a made named Tabitah. The miracle took place on this spot where we are standing now, and in memory of this event, the Franciscans built here the church and the monastery. This particular building was built on the ruins of an ancient church. The first church was built in 1642 and this one in 1882, donated by the king of Spain. Therefore the church is in Spanish Baroque style.

The Franciscan order is a Christian order started by Franciscus of Assisi and the Franciscans were appointed by the Pope to be the Guardians of the Holly Land.

As you know, on every public house you can always find a sign to whom the building belongs or who built it. It doesn’t matter which religion we’re talking about. Look up and you will see St. Peter’s sign. You see the crown, symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven. You also see the 2 keys. Because St. Peter got the key to heaven from Jesus, he became the “substitute” of Jesus on Earth. Underneath, in the white sign, you can see 5 crosses, which symbolize the Crusaders. The two hands are the symbol of the Franciscan order. One is dressed and the other is bare.

When Franciscus of Assisi arrived to Rome to ask for the Pope’s permission to establish the "Franciscan order", he identified with Jesus so much that he got “DESTIGMATA”. “Destigmata” is the hole in his hand, the hole that was made by the nail when Jesus was crucified to the cross. The bare hand symbolizes Jesus and the other hand symbolizes Franciscus. All churches belonging to the Franciscan order have this sign.

The Jewish House
Till 1840, due to religious reasons, there was no official Jewish community in Jaffa. 1200 B.C, more or less the time that the Israelites arrived from Egypt to the Promised Land, each of the 12 tribes had to conquer the properties assigned to them. The tribe of "Dan", to whose territory Jaffa belonged, didn’t succeed to conquer Jaffa. For this reason, the High Rabbinate in Jerusalem, didn’t give the permit to establish here in Jaffa a Jewish community. Of course I do believe that one or two, or maybe more Jews lived here.

In 1820 a Jew named Ieshaia Ajiman, arrived to Jaffa, on his way to Jerusalem. He was a rich man who dealt with the Turkish Sultan Army, and he bought a three-floor house for the Jews of Jaffa. This house served as a hostel and a synagogue for the Jews that used to pass thru Jaffa port on the way to Jerusalem. This place was known as the Jewish Court – “Dar el Yahud”.

Vatican Embassy
Even though there are many Christians and many Christian churches in Israel, the Vatican, until last few years, didn’t recognize the State of Israel. This situation changed only recently, but still the Vatican doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is the most natural location for the Vatican Embassy of course, because this is the Franciscan church and as I mentioned before, they are the Holly Land Guardians. Here St. Peter performed his first miracle and became the first Pope, and now Pope John the 2nd, during his visit to Israel last year, opened the Vatican Embassy to Israel.

The Catholic Hostel
This hostel was built in 1642 to provide the pilgrims, on their way to Jerusalem, a place to stay overnight. Look above and you can see the Franciscan sign, which could be immediately recognized by the pilgrims who came to Jaffa and where looking for their own sign. They wouldn’t get inside if they didn’t see the sign of their own order. Here we can see the Franciscan Catholic sign.

We shall continue walking and we shall see a hostel with the Greek orthodox sign. They will never mix, because if for example an orthodox will go into the Franciscan church they will try to convert him and this is of course forbidden in any religion.

The Greek Orthodox Monastery
Right next to the Franciscan Hostel, we have the Greek Orthodox Monastery, which served for same purposes, only of course to the Orthodox Pilgrims.

The House of Simon the Tanner.
After St. Peter preformed his first miracle, which we mentioned earlier in the church, he came here to visit his friend, "Simon the Tanner". He climbed up to this roof, and here he had a vision – a large object came to him from heaven, like a white sheet, and many different animals, and a voice told him to eat them. He refused and the voice repeated the command three times. He understood this was a symbol urging him to go to the gentiles.

Statue of Faith
It has three parts. On the top, you can see the conquest of Jericho. As you know, Jericho was the first city the Israelites conquered, by circling its walls seven times, after which the walls fell down. You should know that when the crusaders arrived at Jerusalem in 1099, they tried to take it the same way – by circling its walls. Of course, they failed.

To the right, Jacob’s dream. GENESIS 28 / 11

To the left, the sacrifice of Isaac. GENESIS 22 / 3

The ‘Hammam’

This institution exists in the east ever since the Roman era in Israel. The Hammam used to serve as a meeting place for the male population. All the daily affairs, commerce, personal problems and gossip used to go around while bathing and having sauna being served coffee or treats.