Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yaffo 2: The Old City

Yaffo, aka "Jaffa," on a map of greater Tel Aviv, lower left.

Like most of the older cities of Eretz Yisrael, Yaffo was designed before the advent of city planning and building codes. With walls built of solid stone, doorways had to be arched to support the weight.

An alleyway in the old city of Yaffo, slow exposure.

Yours truly in that same alleyway.The old city is on a Tel (mound,) with layers of previous civilizations buried beneath. The tel slopes steeply down toward the sea.

Looking back at Tel Aviv from Yaffo.

Even in the previous century, in the days when Yaffo was the chief port of entry to the land of Israel, "port of entry" was a relative term. The harbor was never dredged, so the truly large ships had to remain out at sea. Pilgrims and immigrants coming to the Holy Land disembarked from their large passenger cruisers onto smallboats rowed by laborers, which took people the rest of the way ashore.

Night fishing behind the jetty.

Today, the harbor is used as a small marina. The larger port cities of Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat have been dredged to accommodate the larger vessels of today. Meanwhile, the Yaffo harbor has been left behind and is in a state of disrepair. There is talk of refurbishing the harbor and turning it into a major tourist attraction, like the Old City of Jerusalem, but so far they remain just plans, not action.

Yaffo also happens to be the site of a major battle. Well, actually, it was the site of many battles over the mellinia, most of them long forgotten. But by far the most famous of those remembered was Napoleon's march through the holy land. On March 4th, 1799, having swung through Egypt and now making his way north, Napoleon's forces besieged Yaffo. Within two days, he had already breached the walls, and his men stormed the city, looting its goods and slaughtering over 2,000 of its defenders.

Yours truly with Napoleon. Talk about a "Little Man's Complex."

Napoleon was eventually able to get a handle on his troops, but the damage was done. With 2,000 rotting corpses came disease. Soon, a plague broke out amongst Napoleons troops. Napoleon then, as the story goes, ordered his doctor to administer poison to his infected troops to prevent the disease from spreading. The doctor refused, and word spread quickly that Napoleon had tried to have them killed. These rumors sparked the first tremors of a mutiny among the ranks. To quell such rumors, Napoleon visited his sick soldiers in the hospital, going to great lengths to touch and come close to them, proving he was unafraid of the disease. He then commissioned a famous painting of himself visiting the sick. Entitled, "Napoleon at Jaffa," it what was probably the closest thing to a photo op they had at the time.

"Boneparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa"

Our tour group gathering in the plaza with the little Napoleon guy.

Walking through the alleyways, past the shops and art galleries of today.

Stay tuned for more...

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