(photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)
When visiting the Holy Land, most Christians turn to traditional sites in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem to seek out New Testament and biblical history. But not everyone knows that several significant Christian holy sites also lie in Jaffa, the southern part of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv.
Saint Peter, one of Jesus’s 12 apostles, performed numerous miracles in Jaffa and had a vision that led him to begin preaching the gospel to non-Christians. The tales of Peter in Jaffa are told in the Book of Acts.
, Chapter 9, Peter is summoned to come to the rescue of the disciple, Tabitha, a woman from Jaffa, on her deathbed. However, by the time Peter reached her, the woman had already passed. Peters knelt at the woman’s bedside and prayed to the Lord for her to rise. Upon doing so, Tabitha opened her eyes and sat up, completely healed. After that, Peter spent numerous days residing in Jaffa with Simon the Tanner.
Acts Chapter 9
“36 Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.”
This miraculous event led many residents of Jaffa to follow Christianity. The tall steeples of the centrally located Church of Saint Peter
, commemorate the healing of Tabitha. Additionally, the Russian Orthodox Church houses Tabitha’s tomb as well as artistic renditions of Peter healing the disciple from Jaffa.
The Church of Saint Peter has been a landmark for sea-traveling pilgrims headed to Israel since the church was built in 1654. The church was later destroyed in the late 1700s, then re-built in 1894. A room within the church supposedly housed Napoleon Bonaparte when he came to visit in 1799. The church holds several masses a day in multiple languages and at various times.
Another point of interest is the House of Simon the Tanner,
the place where Peter stayed while in Jaffa. Peter also had a great vision on top of the roof of this house, in which he was commanded to eat animals that were regarded as unclean in the Jewish tradition, under kosher law. When Peter refused to eat the non-kosher animals, the voice responded “What God has cleansed, you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). Peter interpreted this divine vision as permission to forgo Jewish law and preach Christianity to Jews as well as pagans. After this event, Christianity evolved from a small sect to the world religion it is today.
The House of Simon the Tanner is located a two-minute walk from the Church of Saint Peter towards the Port of Jaffa. Although the house is currently closed off to the public, the historic roof is easily visible from the winding streets.
For more information on Christian sites in Jaffa, visit the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.sign up to our newsletter