In thinking about areas of Israel which we hadn’t explored, we came up with Jaffa, the port city adjacent to Tel Aviv. Currently not as active a port as it was historically, but now focusing primarily on locally grown oranges, it is a growing city, with modern buildings going up on every corner. The iconic view of the Mediterranean Sea from Jaffa, looking onto the shores of Tel Aviv, is still breathtaking and in its lovely park setting.
Taking a recommendation from an experienced traveler, we booked a room at a lovely boutique hotel in the center of Jaffa. Owned by Shachar Rachamim, The Margosa Hotel is located in the heart of the city on the corner of 29 Margoza Street. Built around a courtyard, it hosts 36 lovely, modern rooms on three floors. Its lavish, daily kosher breakfast, prepared by an award-winning chef of TV fame, is served in both an inside cafe and an outside area that is delightfully decorated with local, exotic plants. Hot and cold drinks as well as pastries and fruit are available all day and night. In addition to the breakfast rooms, Rachamim shared with us that he hosts many Israeli and international business conferences in his lower level executive conference room where he provides lunch and dinner upon request.
The central location of the Margosa Hotel allows you to park your car in the lot provided and forget about it until the end of your visit. Our first foray was to the famous Shuk Hapishpishim, or Flea Market, so native to Jaffa. Within the area of the shuk, modern restaurants reside alongside vintage shops featuring furnishings, appliances, clothing, carpets and anything imaginable, new and vintage. Several kosher restaurants, including a branch of Hummus Eliyahu, are available for your kosher dining pleasure.
Also within walking distance of our hotel, set within a huge stone structure dating back to the historical walls of the City, is the famous Ilana Goor Museum.The Museum building stands on a hill in Old Jaffa and constitutes an “architectural pearl and a work of art with its breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea.” In the 19th Century the building served as a factory for soaps and perfumes based on olive oil, which was then a major export from Israel. Ilana Goor purchased the building in the early 90s to display her artwork.
Ilana Goor was born in Teveria to a distinguished family of highly respected doctors and artists. She never formally studied art or design but developed artistic techniques on her own. She is considered to be an international, multifaceted, individualistic and intuitive artist. Her works include sculptures, furniture, lighting fixtures, practical implements, jewelry and fashion items that have been exhibited in museums other than her own, including the Tel Aviv Museum and the Museum of 20th Century Art in Vienna.
In addition to Goor’s own works, the Museum displays over 500 works of art from throughout the world. Each room of the museum, which also serves as Goor’s home and consists of multi-levels, including porches overlooking the sea, features creations from different places and times. Each work of art has a different background and story of its own. “The Museum’s uniqueness lies in its unexpected contexts generated by each artist both on the human and visual level.”
On the second evening of our stay in Jaffa, we discovered a Sephardic kosher meat restaurant in another part of town. In addition to the tasty meal, the ambience was lovely as the seating looked out through glass windows onto a main thoroughfare that resembled a small European town with many young cyclists and young families passing by. Directly across the street was a large modern structure that turned out to be a live theater catering to the growing Russian-speaking population of Jaffa.
A true highlight of our visit to Jaffa was located right around the corner from our hotel. At the advice of our experienced traveler, we were directed to the top floor of an ordinary apartment building on 26 Yehuda Hayamit Street. Called the Museum of the House of Psifas Yafo, the Museum is located in the apartment of Joseph Lugasi a”h and run by his wife Yaffa in tribute to his memory. Upon entering the apartment, one is immediately overwhelmed by the realization that every inch of wall space is covered with colorful and artistic mosaic representations of personalities including Torah giants and philosophers, politicians from Israel and around the world, musicians and visual artists, Israeli and international entertainers, educators, inventors and social welfare activists. Mosaics depicting Biblical scenes and astrological charts are also represented throughout the apartment, covering floors as well as ceilings.The outdoor patio as well hosts mosaics of well-known international personalities. The massive work and skill displayed are truly incredible.
Yaffa explains that her husband Yosef was a simple man, born in 1949 to a Moroccan family of 8 siblings that moved to Emek Beit Shean in 1954. His father worked at various jobs and his mother toiled as a seamstress. Yosef was forced to leave his studies and help support the family, who eventually moved to Jaffa. In 1977 Yosef married Yaffa and they had three children. Yaffa became the sole supporter of their family while Yosef pursued his dream of creating artistic mosaics. He would collect shards of tiles from businesses and bring them home to his workshop, where he would lovingly form them into portraits of well-known personalities. Now retired,Yaffa conducts tours of Yosef’s works for a small fee. She has received an offer to move the entire collection to a larger space but feels that its remaining in the space where all the mosaics were created is still the truest and most genuine tribute to the memory of her beloved husband and his extraordinary talents. Viewing Yosef’s treasure trove of mosaics was a true pleasure and is highly recommended.
Altogether, our trip to Jaffa was a genuinely charming and delightful experience, one we can enthusiastically recommend.
The Margosa Hotel is located on 1 Avraham Even Shoshan Street, Jaffa, and can be reached at 972-3-6805050 or at [email protected]
The Ilana Goor Museum, located at 4 Mazal Dagim Street in Old Jaffa, can be reached at 972-3-683 7676 or [email protected]
Museum Beit HaPsifas at 26 Yehuda Hayamit Street can be reached at 054-6093919 or at http://psifas-house.com
By Pearl Markovitz