By Mike Willis
The Mediterranean has dominated Israel’s life and civilization throughout the ages. Most of Israel’s wealth comes from this busy, densely populated strip near Tel Aviv and from the farms of the well-watered Sharon plain, running north to south just inland from the sea. Tel Aviv is a modern city, less than 100 years old. Over one million people live within the boundaries of greater Tel Aviv, but before 1909 this area was a wasteland, a barren stretch of sand.
The word “Jaffa” is derived from the Hebrew word yapo that means “pretty or lovely.” Modern Jaffa conveys little sense of its long history. The earliest remains here date back to the 18th century B.C. In the 12th century B.C., Jaffa became part of the Israelite kingdom, and the Old Testament makes mention of the town several times. Under Solomon it was developed as the principal port for the Jewish capital, Jerusalem.
Here are some biblical events and facts that are related to Joppa.
The city was in the territory of the tribe of Dan when the Land was divided under Joshua (see map of the Twelve Tribes of Israel).
David conquered the area during his reign when he took control of land occupied by the Philistines (the area from Joppa to Gaza).
Solomon used the city as a port city for receiving cedars from Hiram, king of Tyre (2 Chron. 2:16). It was an harbor in the times of Ezra (3:7). Therefore, Jaffa was the port city for Jerusalem some 35 miles away. In New Testament times, Jaffa has been replaced as the major port by Caesarea on the coast, which was constructed by Herod the Great.
Jonah fled through Joppa toward Tarshish (Jon. 1:3). There Jonah boarded a boat headed to Tarshish, leading to his being swallowed by a great fish.
It was conquered by Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.).
It was destroyed by Vespaian in the overthrow of the Jewish rebellion leading to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-42).
Peter was living with Simon the tanner beside the sea (Acts 9:43) when servants from the house of Cornelius came to him from Caesarea (about 30 miles north). There he had his vision of the sheet let down from heaven full of clean and unclean items (Acts 10).
The 12th and 13th centuries A.D. saw frequent invasions as successive Crusaders, including Richard the Lion-hearted, were beaten off. From that time until the British entered Jaffa in November 1917, Jaffa was Arab. By the start of the 20th century, a few Jewish refugees had settled among the Arabs of Jaffa. Jaffa is the oldest still-functioning seaport in the world.
The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan placed Jaffa in an Arab state, and Tel Aviv in a Jewish one. Following the 1948 Proclamation of the State of Israel, Jaffa’s Arabs launched a full-scale military attack on Tel-Aviv. They were defeated and many fled. Today only a small number of residents are Arab. The community is a lovely community with a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea in the site traditionally said to be where Peter raised Dorcas.