Sunday, May 20, 2012

Old Jaffa in Nine and a Half Chapters

Chapter 1

How do you get to Jaffa from Tel Aviv? Walk down the beach and make sure the ocean is on your right.

Chapter 2

Me, upon entering the tourist information center: Do you have maps?
Guy working in the tourist information center: Maps of what?

Chapter 3

My inner historian of religion understands completely. My inner rationalist thinks it's silly. My inner tourist is a little annoyed with the guidebook for not making it clearer. Jaffa is full of loads of old and fascinating churches, mosques and other sites of deep religious significance. You can't go into the vast majority of them, so I felt like I spent much of the day not visiting churches and mosques.

The sign on the house of Simon the Tanner, a building where the apostle Peter is supposed to have stayed: "Entry into this place is forbidden. Whoever enters here does so at his own risk, and there will be consequences."

St. George's Monastery, and its sign, which is just to the right of the edge of the frame of the first photo: "Private property!! Entry for strangers is prohibited."

The slightly ajar front door and chained rear gate of the main Ottoman-period mosque, also not open to visitors.

Chapter 4

The Jaffa Antiquities Museum sort of gave me a sense of what my parents have described Israel as having been like in the 70s: a little funny, a little less sophisticated, a little more sparse.

I genuinely thought that this juxtaposition of a manhole cover and a Roman column base was lovely...

... except for this guy:

Coins, displayed in a pile, but some with the accession-number-side face-up.

And yes, that is Donatello's David being used to illustrate the connection between biblical and Near Eastern histories:

And the place does, quite plainly, need a serious edit of its English-langauge signage. This was the most amusing of the examples:

Chapter 4 1/2

Why does my life seem increasingly like a running Lawrence of Arabia joke?

Chapter 5

One of my favorite places in London is Sir John Soane's House. Imagine Sir John Soane as a slightly batty older Israeli woman, and you'll have some idea of what the Ilana Goor Museum of Applied Art and Ethnography is like.

You keep your ancient Caananite jars in your library windows, no?

Chapter 6

A famous restaurant in Jaffa is called Dr. Shakshuka. My favorite Israeli hole-in-the-wall in New York pays homage to this restaurant with their own shakshuka dish (tomatoes, other veggies, broth, topped with a soft-cooked egg), so I was eager to go and try their food. They were closed, so I went to the other famous restaurant in Jaffa, Mat'am Abulafia. It's actually most famous for its bakery, where there are always lines and where people go to celebrate the end of Passover, but their cafe across the way makes an outrageous shwarma, as it turns out.

Chapter 7

There were Ethiopian weddings taking place all over Independence Park. I wasn't able to find out if this is considered an auspicious time for members of that community to get married, since it coincides with the anniversary of one of the major Ethiopian airlifts to Israel, but either way, they were quite interesting.

Chapter 8

I was finally able to visit the Franciscan church, which is built after the Latin American baroque style (which happened to give me a bunch of ideas for the next time I teach the intro class), but I didn't take any photos there. It, like the others, is a functioning religious site, and I am very conflicted about taking pictures of praying, a topic which will require its own post.

Chapter 9

The Roman ruins seemed to be closed for Shabbat, so I headed back up to Tel Aviv, walking back up the beach with the ocean on my left.

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