The first time I flew to Tel Aviv I visited Jerusalem, so the second time I had to visit the city we fly to! One of Tel Aviv’s biggest attractions is Old Jaffa, supposedly the old center of a neighboring port city – Jaffa. Like many places in Israel, it is famous for its association with some biblical stories, in this case the one of Solomon among others. Despite its older look most of the city was rebuilt during British control after repeated damage inflicted during the Napoleonic Wars and the 1837 earthquake. It was later known for its sweet oranges. Nowadays it is a very touristy place, we can’t find many Israelites and none of those very photogenic Orthodox Jews.
We started the day at Jaffa’s Flea Market, where rugs, antiques and souvenirs could be found everywhere. There was also an area that was just like Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra. In the port of Jaffa I expected to find photogenic boats, but I saw only modern sailboats and some other tourist boats.
Finally we entered Old Jaffa, which is not very big. There are many art galleries and even art hanging on the walls of the streets. House numbers and street name plates are turquoise in contrast to the earthy color of the walls. On every door we find a mezuzah, which is the name of a Torah commandment that orders a small scroll of klaf to be affixed to the threshold – nowadays made of metal or wood – containing the two Torah passages that command this commandment. The mezuzah should be affixed to the right jamb of every dependency on the Jewish home, synagogue or establishment as a reminder of the creator – in fact when I returned to the hotel I noticed that there was one on every door of each room.
At the top of Jaffa we find a viewpoint that allows us to see the whole new city of Tel Aviv and its long beach that follows the whole city. Here is also a bridge that holds an ancient legend: this bridge has the 12 symbols of the zodiac signs and if we ask for a wish, while we touch our sign and look at the sea, it will come true. From this bridge you can also see St. Peter’s Church.
About 2.5km from Old Jaffa is the Carmel Market. Between one place and another one walks calmly along the sea. You leave the old city of Jaffa behind and approach the skyscrapers of the new Tel Aviv. On the beach there are many surfers and many areas where only they can enter the water, where swimming is prohibited. For the first time in my life I saw Muslims on the beach and I found it delicious, a proof that regardless of the culture and the amount of clothes we have to wear, it is always possible to enjoy the wonderful feeling it is to dive in the Mediterranean.
I saw churches and I saw mosques but strangely I did not find the synagogues, probably more discreet. I finally arrived at Carmel Market and was immediately amazed at how they present their pomegranates, no doubt the best way to attract fans of this fruit – unfortunately not my case. I saw a lot of baklava stalls and had a wonderful dish I had never heard of before: Şakşuka. An egg and tomato sauce dish that I truly became a fan of! I also tried an Israeli beer, which name I can’t recall, also very nice!
I went back to the waterfront one last time because I was fascinated by the seaside life, full of beautiful Israelis, cycling, jogging or working out at one of the many points with gym machines scattered along the beach. From there I took the bus to our hotel, about 50min north of the city, where I still had a great swim on the beach right in front of it!