The Glazing Sun at Old Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel

September 6, 2017

This is a personal report about a visit to the Jaffa Port area.

Field Diary, 6th of July 2017
I am knackered. The sun hits like a bullet of faith. My beloved Panama Hat is doing its best but this is the point of no return. I feel lost. What am I doing here? I am a tourist, am I a tourist, a researcher … I need to drink some water. Who should ever read my stories – my place portraits? Or be interested in my observations? What a stupid idea!y!

Old Jaffa Port

I enter the area over a small hill with a touristy site on its top. The sea breeze catches my rising fatigue. I am all alone. Only the yellow light of the afternoon sun is my constant but nasty companion. My shadow is grinning at me.

At this time of the day, sane people stay in closed areas. Later, of course, the promenade of the harbour I am entering will be bustling with people. They will rise like rabies, unexpected and unforgiving. I feel catching myself being righteous.

To my left, I see three restaurants or bars. The places look well established, not cheap. Only some blokes are already on their afternoon drinks. The selection ranges from regional choices to various craft beers. A mean smile, my old friend craft beer. Now available – everywhere, even here. I am frustrated. Are there no unexplored places left?

In the past Jaffa Port had an adventures history spanning over three millennia, says Wikipedia. The place is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and the works of Josephus describing the first Jewish revolt against Rome. Today I find myself being placed between restaurants, bars, cafés. It seems there is nothing left to explore. At least not for me. But before I turn around, before I will give up and go back to my flat, let’s just walk to the end of the harbour over there.

In the past Jaffa Port had an adventures history spanning over three millennia, says Wikipedia. The place is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and the works of Josephus describing the first jewish revolt against Rome. Today I find myself being placed between restaurants, bars, cafés. It seems there is nothing left to explore. At least not for me. But before I turn around, before I give up for today, let’s just walk to the end of the harbour.

The buildings are starting to change. I see three warehouses. Most of the restaurants are placed in warehouse number one. Warehouse number two, however, is empty and in a decrepit condition. I see men entering and exiting a building. They have blood on their aprons. It is a fishery. Today’s catch is what they are dealing with and what the two little kittens in front of the door probably would also love to do.

A few 100 meters before, the area looked like a gentrified place for people eager to spend their well earned ILS. But not here anymore. Three old men are guarding another entrance. I’d love to have a look inside but am too shy to approach them. Instead, I try to make contact with my eyes asking for permission to take a photo of them. They agree, somehow.

As I walk further I see fishing nets drying in the sun. To my right, there is a boat dock. Several, I guess up to ten, boats are jacked waiting for repair. I have always been fascinated by boats, especially by those which are not in the water. I don’t know why. Perhaps because a boat on land is a like a fish breathing air. While I am enjoying the atmosphere, being happy that this seems to be a spot I am able to connect with, an old man appears on a deck of one of the boats. I wave at him.

The Conversation

Bloody hell why did I do that? But relief, he is waving back to me. Strengthened by the friendly contact I approach him. We start a conversation. The old man talks in Arabic and Hebrew. I return in English and German. The language barrier affects our conversation. But that does not seem to be important. The old man has a gentle face. He wears an old grey T-shirt and short green trousers. I am trying to read his appearance. He must be around 80. His skin and face are wrinkled, excavated by the sun. I realise my still existing youth. The strength that yet hasn’t left my feet allowing me to walk for several kilometres without any training including the heavy backpack. But back to the old fellow.

A strange dynamic rises between us. He talks more and more. I nod more and more. His eyes wander to distances with loving sorrow. He now speaks about his kids, I guess. They live in the US, Colombia, and Chile. One is a policeman the other an academic of some sort. An old woman approaches from behind. She pushes a buggy. Invited by the old man she joins the conversation starting to translate bits and pieces into English. The child seems rather confused. And so am I. Confused by a conversation I am more or less not able to understand.

I am not going to take a photo of this moment. This is what I came for. This only for me, for us four swallowed in this place. Taking a photo would create a fracture between us. I am anxious this action would destroy the beautiful intimacy that has emerged. I stay a while and listen … and then I go on.

Next to me a huge but decrepit metal structure rises. It is warehouse number three. Gone structures always hold good photo opportunities. Right? But isn’t that similar to everything that is gone or yet not established? Perhaps we recognise our own limited time especially well in things that are aspiring or decaying. But I guess that is a thought for older people. Youth is a shield. What a wonderful, protective shield

I decided to take some more pictures of the area. This is an interesting place. It’s mechanisms work through time. Warehouse number represents today. Warehouse number four, however … well, it is barely standing anymore. For now, its structure is undecided or at least left alone. But this won’t last. Change is imminent.