02 Oct Jaffa
Jaffa, in Hebrew Yafo (Hebrew: יפו, About this soundYāfō (help·info)) and in Arabic Yaffa (Arabic: يَافَا) and also called Japho or Joppa, the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, is an ancient port city in Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus, and later for its oranges.
Ancient Jaffa was built on a 40 metres (130 ft) high ridge, with a broad view of the coastline, giving it a strategic importance in military history. The tell of Jaffa, created through the accumulation of debris and landfill over the centuries, made the hill even higher.
Middle Bronze Age
The city as such was established at the latest around 1800 BCE.
Late Bronze Age
Jaffa is mentioned in an Ancient Egyptian letter from 1440 BCE. The so-called story of the Taking of Joppa glorifies its conquest by Pharaoh Thutmose III, whose general, Djehuty hid Egyptian soldiers in sacks carried by pack animals and sent them camouflaged as tribute into the Canaanite city, where the soldiers emerged and conquered it. The story predates the story of the Trojan horse, as told by Homer, by at least two centuries.
The city is also mentioned in the Amarna letters under its Egyptian name Ya-Pho, ( Ya-Pu, EA 296, l.33). The city was under Egyptian rule until around 800 BCE.
Hebrew Bible: conquest to return from Babylon
Jaffa is mentioned four times in the Hebrew Bible, as a city opposite the territory given to the Hebrew Tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:46), as port-of-entry for the cedars of Lebanon for Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16), as the place whence the prophet Jonah embarked for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) and again as port-of-entry for the cedars of Lebanon for the Second Temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 3:7).
Jaffa is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as the territorial border of the Tribe of Dan, hence the modern term “Gush Dan” for the center of the coastal plain. The tribe of Dan did not manage to dislocate the Philistines from Jaffa, but many descendants of Dan lived along the coast and earned their living from shipmaking and sailing. In the “Song of Deborah” the prophetess asks: “דן למה יגור אוניות”: “Why doth Dan dwell in ships?”
After Canaanite and Philistine dominion, King David and his son King Solomon conquered Jaffa and used its port to bring the cedars used in the construction of the First Temple from Tyre.
The city remained in Israelite hands even after the split of the united Kingdom of Israel.
Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian periods
In 701 BCE, in the days of King Hezekiah (חזקיהו), Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded the region from Jaffa. After a period of Babylonian occupation, under Persian rule, Jaffa was governed by Phoenicians from Tyre.
Hellenistic to Byzantine periods
Alexander the Great’s troops were stationed in Jaffa. It later became a port city of the Seleucid Empire until it was taken over by the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 10:74–76) and ruled by the Hasmonean dynasty. According to Josephus, however, the harbor at Jaffa was inferior to that of Caesarea.
During the First Jewish–Roman War, Jaffa was captured and burned by Cestius Gallus. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus (Jewish War 2.507–509, 3:414–426) writes that 8,400 inhabitants were massacred. Pirates operating from the rebuilt port incurred the wrath of Vespasian, who razed the city and erected a citadel in its place, installing a Roman garrison there.
The New Testament account of Saint Peter bringing back to life the widow Dorcas (recorded in Acts of the Apostles, 9:36–42, takes place in Jaffa, then called in Greek Ἰόππη (Latinized as Joppa). Acts 10:10–23 relates that, while Peter was in Jaffa, he had a vision of a large sheet filled with “clean” and “unclean” animals being lowered from heaven, together with a message from the Holy Spirit telling him to accompany several messengers to Cornelius in Caesarea Maritima. Peter retells the story of his vision in Acts 11:4–17, explaining how he had come to preach Christianity to the gentiles.
In Midrash Tanna’im in its chapter Deuteronomy 33:19, reference is made to Jose ben Halafta (2nd century) traveling through Jaffa. Jaffa seems to have attracted serious Jewish scholars in the 4th and 5th century. The Jerusalem Talmud (compiled 4th and 5th century) in Moed Ketan references Rabi Akha bar Khanina of Jaffa; and in Pesachim chapter 1 refers to Rabi Pinchas ben Yair of Jaffa. The Babylonian Talmud (compiled 5th century) in Megillah 16b mentions Rav Adda Demin of Jaffa. Leviticus Rabbah (compiled between 5th and 7th century) mentions Rav Nachman of Jaffa. The Pesikta Rabbati (written in the 9th century) in chapter 17 mentions R. Tanchum of Jaffa. Several streets and alleys of the Jaffa Flea Market area are named after these scholars.
During the first centuries of Christianity, Jaffa was a fairly unimportant Roman and Byzantine locality, which only in the 5th century became a bishopric. A very small number of its Greek or Latin bishops are known.