Leif, my son and Talia, my precious granddaughter invited me to join them on a tour to Israel. They did not have to persuade me, I was more than ready to go. Here again do my reading played a significant role. I read The Source by James Michener many years ago and that is in my opinion one of his best books, together with Hawaii and Centennial. For those who have not read The Source, a short summary. It is about an archeological excavation in a tell in Israel. A tell is a mound where one civilization have built and lived on top of the remains from the former inhabitants . Of course Michener has a story about the archeologists and the excavations, but what facinated me was the stories from the tell. It started on the top where they found a cartridge from an English gun, 1947. Then they dug vertically through many layers all the way down to a cave underground, to prehistoric times. They found artifacts and Michener made a series of short stories from each layer. It facinated me, and I recommend the book. One fact that is still true is that there been little peace there and it has always been the people living there who have suffered the most. Massacres, deportation, suppression etc is part of the history. The big powers on any given time seem to have battled their way through the region.
Believe it or not but we visited a tell on the tour. More about that later.
For some mysterious reason my camera did not function properly so some of the pictures are Leif’s.
We had one free day in Tel Aviv-Jaffa before the organized tour started so we strolled down the beach down to old Jaffa. It looked like this:
From Jaffa looking towards Tel Aviv:
In a small park in old Jaffa we saw our first excavation. The bottom layer was Egyptian with the name Ramses inscribed, the top levelwas a ruin from an English soap factory.
Unforunately the picture does not show this very well.
Both Jaffa and Tel Aviv have interesting histories, Jaffa a long one and Tel Aviv a relatively short one.
Excavations in Jaffa have discovered finds from the bronze age and iron age, and some sources say it has been a harbour for 4000 years. In 1470BCE Farao Thotmose III conquered Jaffa and the city is mentioned several times in the Bible. The logs for Salomon’s temple in Jerusalem came from Lebanon by sea and was unloaded in Jaffa and transported by land the rest of the way, and that must have been quite a job.
In 1099 the first crusaders took Jaffa and improved the harbour which became an important port for The Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin captured the city in 1192 but it was recaptured by Richard the Lionhearted in 1223 It was taken again by the Mameluks in 1268 and then the harbour was destroyed several times to prevent it to be used by new crusades. In the 16th century the Ottomans conquered the city, which was more like a village. In 1799 Napoleon took the city, killed many and then massacered the Muslim garrison after they surrendered. A following plague killed even more of the inhabitants. But after that follwed a time of expansion and the number of Jews increased.
The first to settle in the sanddunes north of Jaffa were Yemenite Jews followed by Ashkenazi Jews in the 1880s. In 1906 the number of Ashkenazi Jews increased even more after the second immigration wave.
The pictures show Jaffa harbour in 1906 and a recent picture.
The Jews were not allowed to purchase land according to the Turkish law, so a Dutch citizen bought a tract of land north of Jaffa and on April 11.1909 66 Jewish families gathered on a sanddune for a lottery for lots. 66 white sea shells had names of the families and 66 grey sea shells had lot numbers. A boy and a girl drew the shells and the plots were distributed.
Avraham Soskin photographed the occation. Note the dresses of the women!
Within a year 66 houses were built, water was installed, six streets were constructed and a plot for the high school was cleared. A rapid expansion followed, temporarely stopped in 1917 when all Jews were expelled.They were allowed to return after a year after Germany and Turkey lost the first world war.
In 1937 160000 Jews lived in Tel Aviv today more than 450000.
Today Tel Aviv is a financial and technological center. Our guide said it like this: In Jerusalem they pray, in Haifa they work, in Tel Aviv they have fun!