Jaffa (Yafa in Arabic, Yafo in Hebrew) is an ancient, complicated, and beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast directly next to Tel Aviv. Jaffa not only boasts a Biblical history (it is where Jonah set off on the adventure that would eventually result in the whole whale incident) but it also carries a lot of significance politically, culturally, and symbolically in Israel today. Jaffa’s population of 46,000 consists of both Jews and Arabs, and it is a place with mosques and synagogues, shesh besh שש-בש and Nargileh نارجيلة, and hummus and more hummus. It is a city that has seen a lot of heartache and boasts a lot of beauty.
You can explore all its history without ever having to take a cab, and it’s endless restaurants, parks, beaches, and shopping making it an easy spot with kids. You will find a lot written about what to do in Tel Aviv, but here’s a little insight into its close neighbor, Jaffa…
Airbnb is the way to go. The hosts here can be incredibly welcoming and may treat you like family (for better or for worse, boundaries are not a thing here) so don’t be shy to ask them for advice. Here are some spaces I have my eye on:
4 bedroom // 3 bedroom // 2 bedroom
Abu Hassan: The question of the best hummus around these parts can spark the most heated debate, but most will agree with you that Abu Hassan is one of the best. Don’t fear the crowd or all the people yelling in both Hebrew and Arabic and probably cutting in front of you (lines don’t really exist here, if there is a line its only of tourists so be aggressive! b-e aggressive!), you can sit inside or take your hummus and sit on the wall near the restaurant which has a view of the sea and Old Jaffa. Ha-Dolphin 1, Jaffa.
Shakshuka is a classic egg and tomato dish made both by Jews and Arabs in the Middle East– it is sometimes spicy and always served with a pile of pita. My favorite is Dr. Shakshuka, and you should also try their hummus and shwarma. Beit Eshel 3, Jaffa.
Walk down from the Old City of Jaffa towards the sea to The Jaffa Port (in Hebrew: Namal Yafo). The space was formerly a packing house for the famous Jaffa orange, but now offers everything from restaurants, shopping and small stands of juice, hummus, freshly baked pastries and locally brewed beer– all while overlooking the marina. And you history nerds can take a boat from here to see where the legend of Andromeda occurred. The easiest way of arriving is through Louis Pasteur Street or from the direction of Yehuda Hayamit Street, Jaffa.
The Arab-Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa offers performances by both Jewish and Arab actors and playwrights. The theatre aims to be a working example of multiculturalism and social involvement, and if you’re lucky you might be able to catch a show with English subtitles. Mifratz Shlomo 10, Promenade in Old Jaffa.
Jaffa Flea Market
Known in Hebrew as Shuk HaPishpeshim is a daytime outdoor antiques/collectables market with all sorts of goodies to be found (don’t be afraid to bargain). At night this place fills with locals enjoying the outdoor seating at restaurants and bars. Entrance next to the Old Clocktower in Jaffa on the streets of Yefet, Yehuda Margoza, Amiad and Beit Eshel.
Beach front stretches from Ajami to the North Port of Tel Aviv- you just have to pick one. Alma beach will give you a gorgeous view of Jaffa, and can take a lunch or cocktail break at one of the most beloved restaurants in the area: Manta Ray. Or try Cassis for breakfast where Jaffa flat bread and roasted eggplant with tahini are a must, and afterwards walk down to Ajami’s stunning beach or play in it’s massive park (formerly a landfill! yes, seriously). All the beaches have lifeguards until around 5pm in the summer, and you’ll probably want to invest in a matkot set. Ajami Beach/ Givat Aliya, Jaffa.
To give you some background I recommend Dancing in Jaffa (Netflix) and the Oscar-nominated Ajami (Amazon). There are many layers to Jaffa and you should definitely feel free to ask locals where their favorite spots are. The people who live here are diverse, spirited, welcoming and hilarious– and you’ll likely find all inhabitants of Jaffa to be very excited to show you the city they love so much.
There are some great babysitting services, like Jerusitters, that offer sitters who are experienced, pre-screened and English speaking.
The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, though you will find nearly everyone speaks English. Here are some basic phrases in Arabic and Hebrew which are bound to get you some smiles and maybe a lower price.