These days, new immigrants arrive in Israel on airplanes. In times gone by, the Old Jaffa Port, known in Hebrew as Namal Yafo, was the very first view of the Land of Israel for generations of traders, pilgrims and migrants. Even earlier in history, the biblical prophet Jonah is said to have set sail from the ancient port city of Jaffa just prior to his time spent in the belly of a big fish. Today, the Old Jaffa Port is a popular tourist attraction, more noted for arts and shopping than for runaway prophets and awe-struck arrivals fresh off the boat. The scenic marina at the Old Jaffa Port serves as a point of departure for people sailing on day trips to Tel Aviv and Jaffa and is still in operation as a working port, in daily use by a few dozen local fisherman.
Lining the streets of the port, you’ll come upon artists’ quarters and their studios. In appealing little workshop-boutiques, local artists sell their hand-crafted items, including jewelry and household decorations. You’ll also find art galleries that exhibit the work of other Jaffa and Tel Aviv-based artists. Many stores sell Judaica, art, archeological finds and other knickknacks along the Old Jaffa Port’s narrow alleys, which are named for signs of the Zodiac. On a stroll through the area, you might happen upon street performers or a street art exhibition.
The Old Jaffa Port boasts numerous restaurants, cafes, and organic markets for lunch or a waterfront dinner. Kosher consumers are advised to check carefully, because some of the Old Jaffa Port eateries serve shellfish and other non-kosher food items.
Not far from here is the recently renovated HaTachana complex. Originally the railway station at the Jaffa end of the Jerusalem-Jaffa train line, HaTachana is now a pedestrian-only area of cafes, restaurants and distinctive boutiques built around existing railroad tracks. Some of the historic flavor of the train station remains as spaces have been repurposed for use as retail stores. Be sure to allow time to visit and browse your way through the Made in TLV shop for the area’s most character-full products, all reflecting the culture of Tel Aviv. There’s live music on Thursday nights and an organic produce market on Friday mornings.