One of the most awesome and mystifying structures to look at during nighttime is the Jaffa Clock Tower of the Ottoman era, a symbol dedicated to the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. This is especially true when it is illuminated during the evening by strong lights of attractive whitish and yellow-orange colors.
The area on which it is located is certainly different from the beach front area where major Tel Aviv hotels can be found. While most of these high rise edifices fight to get a good share of attention (and business) from people, the tower is the one of the only two imposing structures within the vicinity, the other one being Saraya Museum. Hence, this clock building has all the attention of tourists for itself.
The first time I saw the tower was in 2005, and was immediately drawn to it. Throughout the years, there were major constructions and renovations on the Jaffa square, surrounding streets, and the tower itself. Castro opened to the sheer delight of younger set of residents in the area. New Cafes and food shops opened for business. A favorite was Cafez Coffee shop and bar that is located just in front of the tower. The place is very accessible, whether by shared taxi (sherut), autobus, or even car service.
Some evenings were spent sitting on the steps, idling time away, and enjoying the cool breeze that must have come from the romantic Mediterranean Sea. Often, we would buy turkey shawarma from the food restaurant located just a block from the square. Other times, the special spicy pizza was the order for the night, on sale at the oldest bakery in city of Israel – Abuelafia.
During Friday mornings and early afternoons, when tourists flock to Yafo mainly to visit the St. Peter’s Church or the architectural ruins at the hill, or perhaps do some haggling at the vibrant and noisy Shuk HaPishpeshim, many of them head and congregate at the Clock. Obviously, it acts as strong tourist magnet of sort, drawing people into it, and then releasing them to go out and walk to search for equally enticing tourists spots and sites within the vicinity.
For us, and perhaps for many others, the square of the tower also serves as a temporary place of respite, which is just ideal what with the concrete seats that occupy the area. During my days at the city, we spent nights walking up the Jaffa Hill, stay a bit at Kikar Kedumin, then go straight to the Old Jaffa Port to enjoy cool and salty sea breeze kiss our faces. If our energy still permits, we join others in a short promenade at the beach. Afterwards, we go up the hill again and tread the narrow, winding paths, both sides of which are lined up with quaint, tiny shops and boutiques; art galleries; Judaica establishments, and a few dwellings.
That’s what I thought so, when I learned that the tower is meant nowadays as a symbol that welcomes people entering this part of the city. Indeed, with the majestic front and appearance that this imposing structure reveals, people have more or less a good idea of what they can expect to see at Yafo. Needless to say, those who are in the country for some amazing Israel tours should remember putting the visit to the Jaffa Clock tower in the top spot of their list of itineraries.