Where It All Began - Fall 2019 travel blog

Catholic church



Yemeni jeweler

Yemeni jewelry

traditional attire

old city

old city

bomb shelter

old city

Jaffa orange tree

old city wall

Turkish clock tower

flea market

no beach here

Tel Aviv


Yesterday I complained that the modern city of Tel Aviv was rather sterile and architecturally uninteresting. Today we traveled a few miles to Jaffa. Tradition says that Jaffa was founded by Japheth, the son of Noah. You can't get much older than that and it looks it. Quaint, cobblestone streets flanked by crumbling sandstone buildings made this an attractive town for tourists. When my mother was a little girl growing up in Vienna, one of her fondest Christmas memories was getting oranges in her stocking, which came from Jaffa. They are still grown here, but all the orchards are owned by the Chinese. So goes the world.

Over the millennia the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, various crusaders, the Egyptians, the Turks and Napoleon. Everyone who was anyone passed through. Each left a mark. As is the case with many ancient cities, every time someone wants to build something which involves excavating a foundation, signs of those who came before are found. The current residents are extra careful about relocating skeletal remains which they believe to be Jewish. When the Second Coming occurs, Jews are supposed to rise up out of their graves and resume their human form. Extra hard to do if your bones have been scattered hither and yon. This is also why Jews never cremate their dead.

Perhaps because of the pressure that Israel feels from the huge Muslim families surrounding them, they have made an extra effort to encourage Jews that were dispersed around the world to return. In some cases such as the Jews from Ethiopia , their way is paid to move here and they are subsidized until they get their feet on the ground. We were surprised to see a Jewish presence from Yemen, who were doing just fine here, with their filigree jewelry making skills. When they first arrived them would charge five shekels for a new piece. Three of the shekels were their pay and the other two were spun into a silver thread that was worked into the filigree. The work we saw in their shop today was magnificent. If I was planning to attend the Met Gala, I would have bought a piece for sure. They served us a thimble of coffee that tasted like someone had dumped a who spice jar of cinnamon in it. I couldn't stop coughing.

We had our welcome dinner and an outdoor lunch in Jaffa. For both meals the table was covered with tiny dishes of mostly mysterious stuff and were encouraged to sample it all. It we managed to empty a plate, it was immediately replaced by more. The Middle East is nothing if not hospitable. The waiters piled up all those little dishes from eight diners at a time and entertained us bringing that giant pyramid of cutlery back to the kitchen.

It can be hard to notice, but there are bomb shelters everywhere we go. Any new construction is also required to have a safe room with an air purifier since these days a chemical attack is of biggest concern. It's hard to squeeze a bomb shelter into an ancient stone city like Jaffa, but even there Anahid could point them out as we walked.

We strolled back to our Tel Aviv hotel from Jaffa on the beach walk that extends along the Mediterranean both north and south of the city. Even though temperatures are relatively cool, there are still lots of tourist here, paddling boarding and playing in the sand. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent and the sand is as nice as what we would find in California. If I lived here, I would never get any work done.

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