Tel Aviv may not be the place one associates with the Holy Land; nevertheless, the ancient port city of Jaffa is mentioned in the Bible - the Old and the New Testament - in numerous contexts. For the Christian visitor to Tel Aviv, what is arguably the most significant reference to Jaffa is the Vision of St. Peter (Acts 10: 1-48). As it is written (10-15): “And he [Simon Peter] became very hungry and would have eaten; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance. And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth. Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth and wild beasts and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him. Rise Peter; kill and eat. And the voice spake unto him again the second time. What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”
This vision, central to the universality of the Christian gospel, took place in Jaffa, on the roof of the house belonging to Simon the Tanner, which for the past 800 years has been the focus of pilgrimage visits to the Holy Land. Another important Christian landmark in Jaffa is the site of the building where St. Paul was jailed before being released to Rome to stand trial.
Not a part of Jaffa, technically speaking, but adjacent to it and of great interest to Christian visitors to this section of the South Tel Aviv area, is the grave of Tabitha, near the Tel Aviv Botanic Garden. As it is written in Acts 9: 36-42, Peter was summoned from Lydda (modern-day Lod) to Jaffa, upon the death of
Tabitha, known far and wide for her charitable works:
“But Peter…kneeled down, and prayed: and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa [Jaffa]; and many believed in the Lord.” (40-42).
Jaffa also has a place in Greek mythology. According to legend it was on the rock off Jaffa’s shore to which the beautiful Andromeda was chained by Poseidon before being rescued by Perseus. Andromeda’s Rock can still be seen in Jaffa Harbor.
As a Mediterranean port city steeped in heritage and tradition, Jaffa is a perfect venue for tourism of many types, and it is being remodeled and renovated with an eye to transforming it into a major attraction for tourists from all over the world. Attention has been focused already on the Turkish clocktower and on the flea market too, where a couple of hotels have opened already and others are being planned or developed, as part of an overall plan to transform the northern entrance to Jaffa into a vibrant tourism destination.
In order to savor Jaffa’s true maritime spirit, relax at one of the fish restaurants around the ancient harbor, descending to it via the steep winding steps of the Old City. The port houses simple fishing boats as well as some modern yachts.
Jaffa is especially popular at nights, when the balmy Mediterranean air is tempered by sea breezes. Israelis and tourists alike enjoy strolling through the alleyways, stopping at a cafe, restaurant or night club.