Friday, March 31, 2023

A quick look at Tel Aviv and Jaffa, Israel

Israel and especially Jerusalem have long been an area that we wanted to visit. Our first trip there several years ago happened to coincide—unintentionally--with holy days for three religions all at once. Muslims, Jews, and Christians combine in spring pilgrimages during the overlaps of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter holidays, which attract about 1.5 million visitors annually.

View of Tel Aviv from the beach
Although we managed to see popular attractions on our schedule, it was very hectic, crowded, and a higher security risk because of the sheer numbers of people. Hoping for a more relaxed trip and the opportunity to expand our visit, we returned last fall. Traveling at an off-peak time for Israel allowed us to actually see and touch the Western Wall, get better looks at Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount, and tour cities we had missed the first visit.

Tel Aviv is modern city.

So we scheduled a tour to Tel Aviv and Jaffa from Haifa, third-largest city in Israel and the port where our cruise ship docked. The drive along the Mediterranean coast to Tel Aviv took about an hour and a half. Jews and Arabs generally live and work together peacefully there. Arab women especially like to live in Israel because of the rights they have there.

The city of Tel Aviv grew as a suburb of Jaffa; now they are parts of the same municipality. “Tel” means past and “Aviv” means future, which is an apt description of the city as it straddles many centuries. It is known for government buildings, modern architecture, museums, art, theater, and acceptance of all citizens. Half the population in Tel Aviv is Muslim.

German influence helped develop Israel.
From a visit to the German district of Tel Aviv, we learned that Germans were instrumental in the early development of Israel. They brought much of the agriculture and mechanics and built roads for easier transportation. Although no Germans live in those districts today, they are still honored for their contributions to the country.

When touring Old Jaffa, we learned that in the Bible story of Jonah and the whale, Jaffa is where Jonah
got on the ship at the start of his adventure. We crossed the Wishing Bridge, which is bordered by a line of Zodiac signs.  It is said that if you touch your sign, your wish will come true. So I did that.

I made a wish when touching the sign of Virgo on the 
Wishing Bridge in Jaffa.

We toured the square of Old Jaffa and had lunch near the 1903 clock tower that marks the northern entrance to Jaffa. Within this central area are many shops, galleries, mosques, churches, and restaurants from fast food to fine dining, an indication of how important tourism is to the region.

The cities of Tel Aviv and Jaffa are diverse yet inclusive, ancient yet modern—a good example of different cultures sharing history and moving into contemporary life successfully.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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