Jaffa or Jafo, surrounded by orange groves, stands around a hill rising from the sea and crowned by the Franciscan church of St. Peter. The old city, with its narrow streets, partly destroyed during the Mandate period, has now entirely disappeared. To the south a new city grew up, to serve which the Franciscans built St. Anthony’s Church in 1933. The Christian population has been considerably reduced since 1984.
Semitic legends attribute the original of Jaffa to Japhet, son of Noah: a Greek legend to Jopa, the daughter of Eolus. It was on the rocks in front of the port, -so says Greek mythology- that Andromeda, about to be swallowed by the marine monster, was delivered by Perseus. Some would derive the name from the Hebrew “Yaffe” (beautiful), which name it got as a Phoenician colony.
Here St. Peter worked the miracle of raising to life Tabitha (Acts 9, 36) and here he had the well-known vision in which God invited him to gather into the bosom of the Church also the Gentiles.
Notwithstanding its remote antiquity and its historical vicissitudes, Jaffa does not present anything of artistic interest. But Jaffa to the pilgrim is dear for its connection with the Prince of the Apostles. A little mosque, near the light house, is considered the site of the house of Simon the Tanner. Beside it is St. Peter’s Church, which dates back to 1654. Twice pillaged, in 1775, when two Friars were killed, and in 1799, in 1830 the old wooden convent was rebuilt and a new pilgrim hospice. The whole was rebuilt 1888-94. It is registered as Spanish property.
Source: Guide to the Holy Land by Eugene Hoade