A day in slowly-moving Jaffa is a nice rest between the insanity of Los Angeles and the crowds of Jerusalem. Jaffa is clean, picturesque, historic, and uncrowded--at least in mid-March. As is the case in so many foreign places, it seems that there is something beautiful or captivating in every direction:
I'm not sure what the sculpture on the left is supposed to represent (maybe tae kwon do?), but the lines almost exactly (and randomly) mimic the tree on the right:
Al-Bahr mosque, completed in the 16th century, is quite close to St. Peter's Church, testifying to the years of religious cohabitation in this area:
Responding to our questions about religious conflict in Israel, Yosef noted that he thinks that Jews and Muslims can live together harmoniously in Israel. However, he also pointed out with some regret that even though he is a student and has many classmates who are Muslim, he has no Muslim friends. "Cohabitating" in the same space is not the same as building a country together.
Unfortunately, the Wishing Bridge, also very close to St. Peter's, was closed. Along the bridge are twelve bronze plaques inscribed with the signs of the zodiac. If you hold onto your zodiac sign, look at the sea, and make a wish, it will come true. Too bad--I have several wishes I would like to have granted. I am intrigued by the focus on the zodiac in Jaffa. Apparently the names of the zodiac signs are also used for street names. I'm not sure I'd want to live on Simtat Sartan, or "Cancer Lane"--no offense intended to you crabs out there (all three of my sisters).
I had no idea. At some point, I'm going to have to do more reading about that.
Excavations in 1956 at Jaffa's largest tel, Abrasha Park, uncovered remnants of a monumental stone gate inscribed with the name of Ramses II, along with other remnants of Egyptian civilization dating back to the 13th century BC. Some scholars date the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan during the reign of Ramses II. A replica of the Ramses II Gate was installed in the 1990s in the spot where the ruins were uncovered:
Nearby is a sculpture that must have been inspired by Ramses Gate, the Gate of Faith, carved in Jerusalem stone by Daniel Kafri in 1974. The left column represents Jacob's dream, the right column is the sacrifice of Isaac, and the top depicts the fall of Jericho.
Yosef led us into the alleyways of the old city, rendered quite mysterious by the fading light:
We live in an area known for its orange groves. In fact, the first naval oranges in the United States were grown about 20 miles from our home. There are still orange groves in the city where we live, and we thought we had seen it all when it comes to oranges, but we had never seen an orange tree growing out of a brass egg suspended a foot off the ground.
Oranger Suspendu, or "orange tree suspended," is a living piece of art created in 1993 by Israeli sculptor Ran Morin, who said of it, "Can uprooted existence, established so definitely through international economics, communication, and technology produce a new, lighter genuine aesthetic? My 'growing sculptures' do not try to answer this question. They show a 'rooted - uprooted' state while going on living, much as we do, growing into an unclear future."
Jaffa has been growing oranges since the 18th century, about 100 years longer than California. Jaffa even has its own orange--the Jaffa orange, also known as the Shamouti orange--which was developed by Palestinian farmers in the mid-1800s. It was and still is the main export of the city. The oranges are "practically seedless" and very sweet.
The sun had set, but we continued our wandering. It was a Tuesday night, and the streets had an eerie stillness.
He then led a toast encouraging us to remember that we "were put by God at this time in this place."
It was a moment to remember--the eight of us on that cool March evening and in that place on the Mediterranean shore at the beginning of a fantastic journey together.
The night, however, was still young. What was jet lag to a group who was invigorated by the (non-alcoholic) fruit of the vine? We continued on.
Do you recognize this guy?
We were more than ready for dinner. It had been a while since our pomegrante-orange juice and gelato, so when we walked past the "always open" Abouelafia Bakery, which TripAdvisor deems the best and most famous bakery in the entire country, what could we do but succumb to its over-powering aromas?
And then it came out looking like this:
We parked the short distance to the restaurant, which did absolutely nothing to empty our stomachs but gave us more exposure to Jaffa street life. I love interesting graffiti:
What's not to love about a tiny restaurant with hundreds of pots hanging from the ceiling?
The face on the napkin happened to be the same face on the man who appeared to be bossing everyone else around. He must be Dr. Shakshuka, I thought. Nope, it is Ben Gubso, owner.
Other than the signature dish, we had just a few other things. Okay, maybe 100 other dishes. There were so many that we had to stack them because all the plates wouldn't fit on the table. We must have looked really, really hungry.
It was an epic meal at the end of an epic day.
We said good-bye to Yosef, and our driver took us to our hotel in Jerusalem, about an hour away. We would be meeting our group at 7:00 AM the next morning, so no rest in sight. I suppose we could have omitted some of sites in Jaffa and gotten to our hotel at a decent hour, allowing for some R&R before beginning the trip in earnest, but what fun would that be? What part of this perfect day could we have given up?