From the time immemorial, Jaffa (Hebrew for “beautiful”) has been important as a port and station in the ancient trade route of “Via Maris”, which connected Egypt with Mesopotamia and the north. Legend holds that the founder of Jaffa was Japhet, son of Noah.
Documentary evidence goes back 3500 years to the time when, as described in the Amarna letters, the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III conquered the town in 1468 B.C., by bringing in with him, hundreds of soldiers in innocent-looking hampers. II Chronicles 2:16 relates how Solomon discussed his building projects with Hiram, king of tyre, who offered: “We will cut wood out of Lebanon... and bring it in floats by sea to Joppa”, for this was the Holy Land’s outlet to the wide world. Jonah 1:3 tells how he “went down to Joppa. And he found a ship going to Tarshish”. Christians associate Jaffa with Peter, who resorted Tabitha to life and “tarried many days with one Simon, a tanner” (acts 9:43).
Here he had his vision which led to the first preaching of the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. The House of Simon the tanner and St. Peter’s Church recall these events.
Another legend associated with Jaffa is that if Perseus and Andromeda, daughter of the king of Jaffa. The beautiful princess was chained to a rock in the harbour to be sacrificed to the sea monster, in order to appease its wrath. Perseus saw her in her terrible plight and rescued her by slaying the monster. “Andromeda’s rock” can be seen in the harbour not far from the light-house. Today, one of Jaffa’s main attractions is the Artists’ quarter, with its quaint streets and workshops.