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Travel to Israel: Jaffa

Jaffa, now subsumed in Tel Aviv-Yafo, is the historic core of the whole city. These pictures show the old city--or at least its shell--and some parts of the nearby, modern fringe.

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Israel: Jaffa picture 1

The Mediterranean haze is discouraging, but the water itself is beautiful. The camera looks from the old city of Jaffa west toward Andromeda's Rock. This, through the 19th century, was the very rough port of Palestine, with landings by lighter--and with luggage periodically lost in the brine.

Israel: Jaffa picture 2

Old Jaffa, from a modern breakwater. The city was compact, on a small hill rising from the coastal plain. The modern city of Jaffa spreads out on the far side of the hill. After 1948, the old city was deserted until transformed into an artist's colony. It's a common transformation in Israel, where formerly Palestinian buildings offer architectural character hard to find in resolutely modern Israeli designs.

Israel: Jaffa picture 3

A stairway in the old city. The protruding I-beams are a relic of the British era, when they were introduced along with concrete. Typically, upper-floor girders have rusted out, while older parts of the same buildings are in fine shape.

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The street pattern is unpredictable, but the materials are dominated by comfortably standard stone, brought down from the hills south of Jerusalem. Old Hebron is today going through the same kind of rehabilitation, though there the object is to restore living quarters, not develop a shopping and crafts center.

Israel: Jaffa picture 5

In a land without much wood, masons become expert at arches and domes.

Israel: Jaffa picture 6

Just inland from Old Jaffa and on the square fronting the great mosque, there's another Turkish clock tower, much like the one in Akko and the one formerly at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. It's suggestive of the wave of modernization that swept Palestine in the late 19th century.

Israel: Jaffa picture 7

That wave of modernization contained missionaries, too--in this case coming to establish a girls' school in Jaffa. It's just across the street from a French hospital and on the old Gaza Road, which began at the clock tower and headed south.

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An adjoining school--this time French.

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20th Century Jaffa, with its almost monochromatic color scheme. Stone disappears in favor of concrete, and balconies bring a flood of light, suited to a people who pride themselves on living outdoors, close to the land.

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With an increasingly prosperous society comes the opportunity to play with style, even if it is only the Lego-look, here just a few blocks from Old Jaffa.

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A different approach: new condominium apartments just south of Old Jaffa and trying to echo local tradition. Gothic arches aren't to be found in the Palestinian lexicon, however; neither are the dentils up top.

Israel: Jaffa picture 12

Inside the same development, a bit of old masonry has been drawn into the design, as if to say that there was no break in 1948.

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This office building looks around for something else to echo and settles on the Turkish sultan's nearby clock tower.

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Propping up the past: old buildings, on the edge of collapse, await their conversion into the facades of new buildings.

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