“W” enters the Jaffa vernacular

Two inflated giant yellow cats hugging tall cranes oversee a massive hotel / residential construction site where a 19th century structure draped with a realty ad promoting the “dream” /”live” conjunction sits at the top of a small hill in Jaffa.

Yellow cats observe brand W s' progress in the ancient city of Jaffa.

Yellow cats observe brand W progress in the ancient city of Jaffa.


1879 neo-Renaissance / GothicJaffa hospital to be "W" hotel.

1879 neo-Renaissance / GothicJaffa hospital to be “W” hotel.


As crews stepped upon the steel skeleton and pillars delved deep to create layers of parking, where ancient relics and bones rested and the view down could be as up-close as a misstep on sliding earth, an engineer cautioned us away from the precipice. “The Residences at West Tel Aviv-Jaffa W sales department is near the whale sculpture a few meters away and towards the sea,” he motioned. Nice to use an Ilana Goor landmark in the land of the Waze start-up.
Whale sculpture marks path to W sales offices.

Whale sculpture marks path to W sales offices.


Hotel / Resident construction in Old Jaffa

W hotel and residential construction in Old Jaffa


It is Starwood W Hotels Worldwide brand with all its alliterative qualities (the letter W is not a single letter in the national language despite “W” wooing Israelis with the “Wow”) and RFR Holding’s construction of 38 luxury residences and 125-room hotel building preservation that brought us here in the first place, but it is the mix of memory, modernity and yet to be embodied future that keeps us coming back.
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Any shade you want but colors must be — yellow and pink

The Clock manager Kobi Cohen under a clock

The Clock manager Kobi Cohen under a clock

In the heart of Jaffa there are two pastel colored buildings side by side, one pink, one yellow. Seems the guardians of Jaffa – the city itself, decreed the color while renovators could choose any hue, providing it color conforms.

We heard this urban regulation lore from Kobi Cohen, manager of The Clock hotel / apartments, close to Jaffa’s Clock Tower, minutes after 11 a.m. in a reception office and shop on Beit Eshel, a few storefronts away from the pastels, as he sat under a white clock where a brochure welcomed guests to a “timeless” experience.
Old or new clock? we ask, always sentinels of the timeframe. “New.” It looks vintage, however.
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Christopher’s Cafe – old charm, new offerings

Our daily bread -Israeli brewed

Our daily bread -Israeli brewed


Charm, good memories and new offerings lured us back through the narrow ancient streets of the Jaffa Flea Market to Christopher’s Café, a colorful street-level and lively eatery, one Friday morning as we were enticed with the taste of new cakes and beer (brewed in Israel) bread, all baked by chef and co-owner Amos Hayon.

As we sat over a cup of café Americano the day before, the eponymous Christopher, the welcoming face of the cafe, invited us to return the next day for take-away cakes. “We love our food and we want locals to enjoy it at a reasonable price.”

While the glasses sitting on a shelf may be imports, purchased at a local emporium called “Joy” on Jerusalem Boulevard, that sells similar ware at the price of 6 for 20NIS, the café’s blends, beer and ingredients are purely local.
On tap is Goldstar and that brew characterizes the bread.
That Friday our choice was between dark chocolate banana cake and carrot cake and we being “anything with chocolate types” opted for the former, which added a very sweet taste to the evening meal at home. Price: 36NIS (about US$10).

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Mannequin for sale but not nurse attire

Vintage MDA (Red Shield of Devid) uniform

Vintage MDA (Red Shield of Devid) uniform


By Lynn Poritz
Standing at the entrance to a vintage shop in the heart of the Jaffa Flea Market is a “tattooed” mannequin wearing a nurse’s uniform with the Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) from a time when the State of Israel was so young.

Her shades shield her eyes against the bright Mediterranean light while her nurse’s apron covers her body, barely. The uniform, or the part of it, comes from an era when the profession was almost completely female. (Not the case in Israel anymore as any trip to the E.R. will reveal). Her lips are bright red. Around her neck is a stethoscope and she carries a houndstooth medical tote.

David Chen, owner of Nekudot Chen ( Hebrew translation: Beauty Marks) says the uniform is vintage 1950 and the bag from the 1960′s. The barefoot mannequin with the eagle wings at her nape hails from the 1980′s.
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New Jaffa hotel shelters antiquity in basement

Market House preservation

Market House preservation

By Lynn Poritz
We interrupted Avi Cohen, the new manager of the Market House Hotel, as he was set to ride his motorcycle into the Bet Eshel Street noon-day traffic in Jaffa. His ride was parked near a post with a partially legible plaque inscribed with the words”the way out of Jaffa to Jerusalem.”  Instead, he congenially led us on a tour through the hotel where building contractors are working to meet the grand opening deadline – three months away.

As we walked onto the ground floor, he said, “this boutique hotel will be special, extraordinary.”
“How so?” we ask.
“Parquet floors, carpeting, not the usual Jaffa structure.” He pointed to the flooring and said it will be replaced with glass. “And underneath the glass?”
Even though Jaffa excavations dig up just about everything, from human and animal bones to shards and jewels, we were unprepared for what lay below.  We followed Cohen into the basement where a millennium-old arch walled structure loomed ahead. Cohen pointed through the dark space and said, “There are more walls, which will be visible through the glass in the lobby above.” Seems in late 1995 following damage to some ruins, the Israel Antiquities Authority did a rescue dig at 5 Bet Ha-Eshel Street, site of the soon-to-be Market House Hotel, and uncovered some large chunks of  the very distant past.

What is it?

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The Quarter (Rova)

rova.well

Jaffa preservation efforts include this well built in 1862 on the site of the Rova.

As real estate prices plummeted in 2003 developers targeted 12 dunams in a rundown section of Jaffa near the flea market for a gated community of 260 apartments that would house those with modest means. The ornate Jaffa arch motifs were eschewed in favor of a simple balconied effect, a modern development with a courtyard and commercial space.  While the complex included penthouses and huge layouts, the average unit measured 70 to 80 meters with balconies in low-rise buildings. Most buyers bought the apartments during the planning stages, on paper, years before the Rova (the Quarter) became the largest residential project in Jaffa and one of the most desired. 

At the start of the millenium, Jaffa was disparaged by many Israelis for its crime, urban neglect and memories of an economically downtrodden time when the State was founded, but for the young, the new immigrant, the farsighted, the adventurous and those wishing to live in an ancient city inhabited by Muslims, Christians and Jews, near the sea and Tel Aviv, the project was alluring.

Jump forward to 2014, when it is hard to find anyone who has sought a Tel Aviv apartment who decries the present and the future of the southern part of the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. All of Jaffa, particularly the north is in demand, and the Rova a short stroll to the beach, a seaside walk to Tel Aviv and minutes from the street and boutiques of the flea market is particularly attractive.

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Jaffa Court – Urban courtyard

tar.pool.jaffa.court. (2)

Jaffa Court Rooftop Pool

A conversation on a Tel Aviv realty Facebook page centered on a two-room, 50sqm. apartment in the Jaffa Court complex. It was the building’s rooftop key-shaped pool with lounging swimsuit clad residents that set the tone. “A dream,” wrote one. Another less enthralled wrote, “5000NIS (about US$1,400), including 800NIS maintenance for Jaffa? Good luck!”
Whatever the luck, the unit in the complex at the commerce confluence of Jerusalem Boulevard and Derech Salame rented quickly as it appealed to many seeking the modern terraced buildings with an inner courtyard, pool, gym, 24-hour security, parking and north Jaffa location. Seems the renters had been eyeing ads in the complex for months.
That was not always the case.
In 1997 Jaffa real estate prices seem headed only upward, but the plunge into a several-year real estate price slump saw this project with many empty apartments sold to the Caesarea Group in 2003 for $11.7 million, according to a Globes.co.il article. Caesarea also bought up historical buildings near the Jaffa Clock Tower. Continue reading

North Jaffa Residences – Urban Upscale

North Jaffa Project

By Lynn Poritz

Promoters spout such terms as urban upscale, trendy and hip as they plug a new 131-unit northern Jaffa “lifestyle residential / commercial project” to be completed in 2016. They aim their rhetoric at those yearning for the Tel Aviv energy and sea proximity, while living in sumptuous dwellings.

Set between a 15-year-old architecturally renowned residential / commercial project and a car wash, the  six dunam (about 1.5 acre) site is now a make-shift parking lot, nursery school and the very dilapidated house of Israel’s second president.

A short walk seaward brings us to a high-tech “lounge salon” (former kitchen showroom, café and coaching center) where realtors market the project in a polished setting. In the bright interior, liquor bottles adorn a shelf, a latte machine churns and some prospects lounge on posh sofas and swank chairs dreaming of charmed homes and equally enchanting existences as they await “the sell.”

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Spinning Wheels

Spinning wheel.

Spinning wheel.

As the future lurks in every new building and the past persists along the Jaffa shore, we gaze into a dark storefront where Reuven Yezkiel polishes and buffs a metal vacuum part on a spinning wheel. A machinist for 40 years, Reuven makes a living from nicks, scratches, rust and imperfections in tools, household objects and anything that can be polished, except jewelry.

While practicing his profession in this shop, Reuven has seen the area transition from industry to cafes and shops. When manufacturing and industry were Jaffa’s lifeblood he worked on industrial tools for the concrete manufacturers and sewing factories.

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