Tourist Tip #275 / Jaffa Visitors Center

The myths, legends and, of course, actual history of Jaffa come to life in a hidden center in the heart of the old city.

Don’t miss the visitors center in Old Jaffa’s Kedumim Square. No, really – don’t miss it. You could, theoretically, because, signposted directions notwithstanding, it is unobtrusive – about 15 feet below street level, topped by a roof that serves as a stage for Jaffa's renowned outdoor concerts.

Discovering what’s down there is part of what makes the experience such a fun, edu-tainment surprise for visitors of all ages. The center’s display tells the city’s 4,000-year-old story both with historical accuracy and a wink, against the backdrop of the actual ancient stones discovered in excavations decades ago.

As you walk through the 330-square-meter center, you’ll peruse the artful archaeological display along a bridge suspended among ruins. As you walk, a timeline clues you in to the vicissitudes of a city that hosted a veritable pantheon of unforgettable figures, including the biblical Jonah, who departed from Jaffa and ended up (briefly) a whale of a meal, the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, the Apostles Peter and Paul, Napoleon Bonaparte and a group of pioneering Christians from Maine who landed at the Jaffa Port in 1866, lock, stock and clapboard houses.

A wonderfully whimsical animated film tells the myth of how one of the rocky outcroppings you can still spy off shore here became known as the Andromeda Rock. This fun cartoon is enough to make you forget that Jaffa is not the only Mediterranean port of call where the hero Perseus saved that lady from the formidable sea monster.

Later, seated among millennia-old remains you’ll be regaled by the historical happenings on a 16-meter-long screen, hosted by an actor playing a wealthy ancient resident of Jaffa whose lifestyle would put the Old City’s current gentrified population to shame. We suspend disbelief when our toga-clad host pauses as he addresses us from the screen to dialogue with figures representing the city’s entire history who for some unfathomable reason keep running through his house. There’s even a real (ever so light) spray of sea water to further enliven the proceedings.

Visitors should coordinate their arrival so they can be sure to catch both films in their own language. In any case, entry is only with a visitor center guide. Tickets are for sale at the office adjacent to the visitor center. The two films are available in seven languages: Hebrew, English, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, French and German.

For reservations and more information: (03) 603-7700; (03) 603-7686; tourism@oldjaffa.co.il

Hours: March–November: Sun.-Thurs., Sat.: 9 A.M. – 8 P.M.; Fri. 9 A.M. – 5 P.M.;

December–February: Sun.-Thurs., Sat.: 9 A.M. – 6 P.M.; 9 A.M.–3 P.M.

Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad