On our last day in Israel, we had a nice walk through the chic Neve Tzedek neighbourhood on our way to Jaffa (Joppa). Jaffa is the southern, oldest part of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, an ancient port city. Jaffa is well known for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon, and St. Peter as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus.
The cedars of Lebanon used in the building of the Temple at the time of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:15) were brought to shore here. It was from Jaffa that the prophet Jonah set sail for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) and was then thrown up again on the shore by the whale (Jon 2:11) at the spot known in local tradition as Tel Jonah.
Jonah’s Disobedience and Flight
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come before me. But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish, away from the Lord. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down in it to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord,” (Book of Jonah 1:1-3).
The Acts of the Apostles refers to a close-knit community here of Jewish believers in Jesus. They were comforted by the visit of St. Peter the Apostle, who came and raised from the dead a lady by the name of Tabitha. On the rooftop of Simon the Tanner in Jaffa, St. Peter envisioned the sheet brought down from heaven containing all sorts of creatures, both pure and impure, after which he set out for Caesarea to receive into the Church the roman centurion, Cornelius, together with all his household, the first from among the pagans to convert to Christianity (Acts 10). The Church of St. Peter commemorates these events.
The Vision of St. Peter
The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime. He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.” The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into the sky, (Acts of the Apostles 10:9-16).
We were graced by Brother David who invited us for brunch with some of the congregation of St. Peter’s Church. We had seen Brother David, a Franciscan priest, on four different occasions during our trip through the Holy Land – the children’s Christmas concert at St. Vincent de Paul in Jerusalem, at Mass in the Church of the Last Supper in Jerusalem, a procession from the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and at St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa. Considering this was our 13th and last Mass in Israel, it was rather fitting to have a familiar face serve Mass for us.
After brunch, we walked around the old city of Jaffa, HaPisgah Gardens, and enjoyed its flea market.