Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jaffa: Israel's Old City

What is all this fuss about Jaffa?

Jaffa has sort of an image of notoriety - needless to say, owing to the significant presence of the Israeli Arabs.

Still, some Israelis' feeling of apprehension and tendency to be extra cautious whenever they are within the Jaffa area is something I just cannot comprehend. I have friends who were in disbelief upon learning that I live there. Since then, all I got from them are advises and words of concerns. One warned me about overspeeding, maniacally-driven vehicles. Another told me that I would forever contend with indifferent, if not hostile neighbors. All tried hard to make me realize the frequency of crime incidents in the area.

Yeah, right. As if even one of them has a first-hand experience of what they were telling me about.

Notorious or not, I just love the Old City. Jaffa Port, one of Israel's oldest, is where I spend some afternoons sitting on a wooden bench to read or watch cruising tour or fishing vessels. Or sometimes just biking around for hours.

The Port and the famous Clock Tower are seen from the Old Jaffa Hill. On this hill is where churches from different religious denominations are found such as the Catholic St. Peter's Church, the Lutheran Church and the Armenian Church. The Hill also boasts of reconstructed alley ways, along which you can find may of Israeli artists' studios and residences, as well as souvenir and gift shops, and restaurants. The hill likewise affords you an excellent view of the Jaffa Beach, the Mediterranean Sea and the City of Tel Aviv.

Blocks away from the apartment is the Pishpishim, the Hebrew term for Flea Market. A perfect place if you are a bargain hunter or on the lookout for just about anything. CD's. Jeans. Silverware. Menorah and other Jewish items. Paintings. Egyptian rugs and carpets. Coins.
Everything can be had for a few Shekkels (1 U.S. Dollar = 4.6 Shekkels). I bought me a bike helmet at 5 Shekkels, which was first offered at 20. It's easy, no-sweating-it-out haggling at Pishpishim.

It is 5 months now since I moved to Jaffa - and hey, everything has been fine so far. I have not seen, heard nor encountered (good for me) any "Arab-related" problem.

Nothing significant anyway.

There are occassional shoutfests just across the street. But I can live with it. I have yet to see neighbors slugging it out and bludgeoning one another to death.

And if I have people to contend with, they are the Arab pre-schoolers who on afternoons, would turn the building into a virtual playground of their own. And even extend their play area to the streets, oblivious of - yes, overspeeding, maniacally-driven cars. Actually, I brand them as my better neighbors.

So, what again is the fuss about Jaffa?

My warning is: Never visit - unless you wanna get hooked to the place.

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