Tuesday, April 14, 2015


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:
Jaffa 2
Jaffa 1

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:
Al-Bahr Mosque, Jaffa, Israel

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).
Curious, I did a little research on Israel and astrology. Some religious scholars correlate the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the twelve zodiac signs.
 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:
Ramses II Gate, Jaffa
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.
The Gate of Faith, Jaffa, Israel
Yosef led us into the alleyways of the old city, rendered quite mysterious by the fading light:
French artist James Tissot sketched A Street in Jaffa in the late 1800s. I don't think a lot has changed in the past 120 years, do you?

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, Jaffa

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. 

Jaffa at Night
We made our way to the harbor:
Yosef had a special treat planned for us. He said it is traditional to say a prayer and drink a toast the first time you come to Israel.  He had thoughtfully brought along a nice bottle of kosher grape juice and some cups. He read a prayer in Hebrew from his cellphone and poured us each a glass of juice.

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?
Information on a sign next to this smiling face reads, "According to the Biblical book of Jonah, God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell its inhabitants that they had sinned. But Jonah refused and instead, boarded a ship in the Jaffa port bound for Tarshish. During the voyage a storm broke out. Jonah understood that this was his punishment, and asked to be thrown into the sea, where he was swallowed by a great fish. Afterward God forgave Jonah and the great fish spit him out. Jonah then went on to Ninevah to prophesy as he had been commanded."

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?
Abouelafia Bakery, Jaffa

When we ordered a cheese-filled pita, it was slid into this oven to be warmed.
And then it came out looking like this:
Our plan was to taste it and save some for the next day.  Yeah, right.  Before long we were back in the van and on our way to dinner with more than just the edge taken off our hunger.

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:
Bob had suggested another restaurant for dinner, but it turned out not to be kosher, meaning our guide could not eat there. He was okay with that, but he did suggest another possibility, and we decided to try it: Dr. Shakshuka. It turned out to be a winner.

Dr. Shakshuka, Jaffa
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.
The eponymous Shakshuka is actually eggs and sausage baked in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce:
I just found a recipe here, and you can bet I'm going to be making this in the next week or so.

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 just happened to be Kasey's birthday (the first of three birthdays we would celebrate on the trip), so we ended the evening with a rousing version of "Happy Birthday" and some sweet treats provided by the restaurant:
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?


  1. When I lived in England, between 1976 to 1978, all of our fruit came from Jaffa. The grape juice provided by Yosef was a very nice touch. The Dr. Shakshuka meal was a perfect introduction to the Middle East. We ended up having several more meals quite like it, yet dramatically different.

  2. It's fun to see a few things I didn't see. I never saw that Gate of Faith. So much to see, I probably walked right by it.
    I've heard that the zodiac is connected to the twelve tribes before. None of your sisters are crabs, by the way. Unless you mean your other three sisters.

  3. When I went to high school in Switzerland, our tasty blood oranges came from Israel. Looks like you had plenty of good food. I loved all the great street food when I spent a month in Israel in 1972. I would love to return and show Shelley all my favorite places.

  4. I laughed, too, about the crabs and sisters comment. Glad Chris caught it too. I wish we had some great food like this around here, but I'm sure if there is, you and Bob would know about it.