The plan today was to visit Jaffo, the famed ancient city which is purported to be almost 40 00 years old. History is buried under its present day, literally! Jaffa, or Yafo/Jaffo is interesting in the sense that it is a mix of Jewish and Arab residents living in the same space.

We woke up fairly early and had coffee and biscuits in our hotel balcony as the sun rose and night became day – and what a feeling being in this ancient land and to experience each morning as so many have experienced right here before us, for centuries.

We took a quick short ride to Jaffo since we did not want to be late for our tour. The city of Tel Aviv has free walking tours of Jaffo and we decided to take it. The tour started promptly at 10 AM. The first stop was the Al-Bahr mosque which is important to the muslims living in Jaffo.

Al-Bahr mosque, as viewed from Jaffo

We then walked around to St. Peters church, Jaffa. The chruch is distinctively European style (given that it was built by the French). Jaffa is important to Christians since it is believed that it was here that St. Peter performed miracles, specifically raising Tabitha from the dead; hence this church is of religious significance to the Christians. The visit seemed to be rushed and I could not find a suitable spot to place my camera and get a proper picture of the inside.

St. Peters church

Our next stop was the “Wishing Bridge” of Jaffa. The bridge has the twelve zodiac signs and the belief is that if you hold your sign, gaze out at the Mediterranean, your wish might just come true. Astrology isn’t traditionally a part of either Judaism or Islam, but such zodiac references are found throughout Israel, probably a reference to how diverse this land and its people are.

Jaffo’s wishing bridge

Our next stop was a “dig” which was still being unearthed. There was a small sound and light show which gave us the current known information about this dig – probably 1st century AD and a marketplace for traders.

From there we walked around the marketplace and the guide showed us an interesting hotel that had not yet opened (but was set to open soon). In the past, the hotel had been 1 week away from opening when the city discovered a whole dig underneath; so the place was now being excavated. The excavations were almost done and when the hotel opens it would have a glass floor so you can see the dig underneath – how cool is that! We then walked around to what seemed like a flea market. Lots of junk, rusted items that were on sale. There definitely were people who were out there looking for things.

We then made our way to the artists quarter, a very beautiful enclave with lovely shops, alleys and art.

Artists quarter, Jaffo

We walked across the alleys and the tour finally ended at the Ilana Gur house – probably one of Israels and the worlds most lovely houses – nestled in such an ancient town with such amazing views!

View from the kitchen in the Ilana Gur house

View from the kitchen in the Ilana Gur house

The view from her kitchen is one of my favourite views of all time.

The one thing we saw in the house that caught our fancy was the “Tree of Life”. We had seen something similar in Luang Prabangs, Wat Xieng Thong. The tree of life has references in almost every culture around the world and is depicted slightly differently, but the fundamental meaning remains the same.

Tree of life at the Ilana Gur house

After spending a good amount of time in the house and admiring the lovely view of the Mediterranean we found our way back to where we started. We spotted the Arab Hebrew theater where plays are conducted in both Arabic and Hebrew (together and independently). We loved the concept, and sadly, we did not have time to see a play. But in a country so deeply divided, it was great to see such initiatives.

Since it was nearing lunchtime we decided to get lunch at Abu Elafia, one of Jaffa’s oldest bakeries today (over a 100 years old and still run by the same family). We got some falafels and Arabic pizza (pita bread with eggs cracked on it and baked in the oven) and of course, Hummus!

We then meandered our way back to our hotel. On the way, we saw the textile institute and got a bit excited since our family histories are closely related to textiles.

We spent the rest of the day chilling out in our hotel room.