Strolling Back 3480 Years or So

Yesterday, while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, some of us walked about two kilometers down the beach from our hotel to the ancient city of Jaffa (KJV Joppa; modern Hebrew Yafo).

It’s a wonderful contrast to modern Tel Aviv, which was only founded in 1909 and which is therefore, to my taste, relatively uninteresting.

The earliest recorded mention of Jaffa dates back to 1468 BC, when Pharaoh Thutmose III besieged the then-Canaanite city.  The siege wasn’t successful, so his general, Djehuty, resorted to a stratagem.  He put two hundred of his soldiers inside jars, along with chains, and then sent them, borne and accompanied by five hundred of his other troops, as supposed “tribute” to the ruler of Jaffa — who plainly hadn’t read the not-yet-written story of the Trojan horse, let alone the Thousand and One Nights.  Needless to say, during the night, when the naïve and clueless ruler of Jaffa had admitted them into his city, they emerged and soon had the city’s garrison manacled and captive.

When Solomon determined to build his temple and palace in the early tenth century BC, it was to Jaffa that Hiram of Tyre shipped the cedars of Lebanon s rafts of logs for overland transport up to Jerusalem.  When the temple was rebuilt in the mid-fifth century BC by returned exiles from Babylonia, the same mechanism was employed.

Jaffa was the site of Peter’s bringing Tabitha or Dorcas back to life, and, more importantly, of his vision of the clean and unclean beasts, which constituted a first step on the path toward taking the gospel to the Gentiles and thus made it possible for Christianity to become a world religion and not merely a small sect of Judaism.  (This represented a far more fundamental change than Spencer W. Kimball’s otherwise somewhat analogous 1978 revelation on priesthood.(

Marc Antony gave Jaffa to Cleopatra, Augustus gave it to the Herodian family, Orson Hyde alighted in the city en route to Jerusalem in 1841, and so on and so forth.

Moreover, when Queen Cassiopeia of Ethiopia irritated Poseidon, god of the sea, by boasting that she was more beautiful even than his daughters, the wondrous Nereids, he sent a sea monster against the city.  It turned out that the only way to turn the monster’s wrath away was for the city to chain Princess Andromeda to an offshore rock that sill sits about a hundred yards off shore.  Fortunately, the hero Perseus was cruising the area carrying the head of Medusa after his triumph over that famous Gorgon.  He slew the monster, married Andromeda, and then, when her previous fiancé expressed understandable displeasure over the wedding, turned that unhappy wretch to stone.  (To be honest, it hardly seems fair.)

A wonderful place.

In the memory of the Palestinians, the loss of Jaffa’s orange groves to Jewish insurgents in the 1948 Israeli “War of Independence” is a potent symbol of Zionist oppression.  I’ve seen this theme in many places, including modern Arabic and even Turkish poetry.  Jaffa oranges were a big deal in Switzerland during my mission there in the early 1970s, and I assume that they still are.

Posted from Tiberias, Israel.

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