Jaffa is one of the oldest cities in the world, conquered and ruled by multiple powers over its history including Egypt, Canaan, Israel, Greece, Hasmoneans, Byzantines, Moslems and France’s Napoleon. Today, it is incorporated into the largest metropolitan area in Israel known as Tel-Aviv-Jaffa.
The city of Jaffa (meaning beautiful), pronounced Yaffa in Hebrew, is one of the oldest surviving cities in the world. From ancient sources, one of the first written reference to Jaffa is found in the Egyptian Harris papyrus from 1440 BC.
About 200 years years prior to Homer’s story about the famed Trojan horse, Pharaoh Thutmose III sent his commander Djehuty into the city with a gift of huge jugs concealing soldiers who conquered the city.
It appears in a list of cities that were conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt and was also mentioned in the Egyptian El-Amarna archive (13th century BC). Other documents confirming the age of the city were found during the excavations of Tel Afek in Israel and the Papyrus Anastasi. The strong Egyptian influence can be traced until 800 BC when the conquest by the tribes of Israel gave Jaffa and surrounding territories to the tribe of Dan (Judge in Hebrew) by Joshua.
The geographical location is described as “… Meiaarkon, and Rakkon, with the border before Lapho” (Joshua 19:48).
Ultimately, the tribe of Dan never succeeded in gaining control of the land and later migrated north. Despite this, the name Dan is still commemorated in the city of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa as the name one of the leading hotel chains and the famous public bus company. The greater surrounding metropolitan are is called Gush Dan.
Historically, Jaffa was an important seaport due to its location on the Mediterranean and natural bay, used for commercial and passenger transport.
According to 2 Chronicles, cedar logs from Lebanon were imported for the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles tells us the Jaffa's port, one of the most ancient natural bay ports in the Mediterranean, received cedar logs from Lebanon for building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Later when the Second Temple was being rebuilt, more logs came by sea,
"And to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa (Jaffa), according to the grant that they had of Cyrus, King of Persia" (Ezra 3:7).
Perhaps the most famous passenger to depart from Jaffa was documented in the Old Testament,
"Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa (Jaffa) and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord"
When the Second Temple was being rebuilt, again the cedar logs for construction came by the sea to Jaffa.
"And to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus, king of Persia" (Ezra 3:7).
Jaffa was conquered in 701 BC by the great King of antiquity, Sennacherib of Assyria.
Following the conquest of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, the Greeks gained control of the city and their culture and mythology was introduced and embraced in the region.
Today, the influence remains visible with many streets in Jaffa bearing the names of Zodiac signs and are included in modern Jewish belief to some extent.
(to be continued...)