gap year in israel

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If you’re spending your gap year with Aardvark in Tel Aviv you’ll have plenty of time to explore the old city of Jaffa and even if you are based in Jerusalem there should still be plenty of time to visit and discover its hidden delights.

Jaffa is an ancient port city full of narrow stone alleyways, galleries, boutique shops, some excellent places to eat and more. It has a unique atmosphere and is most definitely worth some of your time. There are some sites in Jaffa that you can’t miss. In the middle of Yefet Street, at the northern side of the city, is the Clock Tower. It was one of seven towers built in honour of Sultan Abdul Hamid II during the Ottoman Period. The tower was constructed in 1903 and in the mid-1960s it was decorated with mosaics that depict the history of the city. Adjacent to the tower are the ‘Kishle’ and the ‘Saraya’, the old Ottoman police station and government house.

If you want to imagine what Jaffa was like about 100 years ago then head to the harbour for a walk. You will get an idea of the neighbourhood’s history through watching the fisherman at work on their boats as you stop by various cafes, galleries and bookshops. You can even rent a kayak or a sailboat and go for a trip along the coastline.

One of the main draws of Jaffa is the Flea Market (in Hebrew Shuk HaPishpeshim). The market is a bustling scene of people haggling over all kinds of goods. It has existed on the same alleys and streets for over a century and it is as busy as ever. If you keep your eyes peeled you are sure to find a number of treasures including handmade ceramics, second hand furniture, antiques, boutique clothing and much more.

Of course all the walking is bound to make you hungry and like the rest of Israel there is no shortage of places to eat in Jaffa. Perhaps the most famous place is Abu Hassan which many will tell you serves the best hummus in the country. Close by is the also famous Abouelafia bakery (the original branch, there are now branches in Tel Aviv as well). Particularly worthwhile is the sambusac, but it will leave you stuffed.

It is this mixture of Jews and Arabs living together than led to the Peres Center for Peace being based in Jaffa. It is a non-profit, NGO that leads initiatives to bring together participants from all sectors of Israeli society and encourage peaceful coexistence. If you have time for volunteer work then there are plenty of opportunities to be found here.

There is plenty more to do and see in Jaffa including over 50 art galleries and studios, a number of live arts and theatre venues and more. Without a doubt there is enough there for you to make multiple trips and each time you go you are likely to discover something new and exciting to enjoy.