Tel Aviv and Christian Tourism

Although it is not obvious at first, Tel Aviv does hold significance for Christians. And not just because it’s located in Israel. While Tel Aviv itself isn’t mentioned in the Bible, the nearby city of Jaffa (which is now a part of Tel Aviv) is referenced in the Bible several times.

Where is Tel Aviv located? 

Tel Aviv is located 60 kilometers west from Jerusalem. It is a very young city compared to the many ancient sites in the land of the Bible. It obtained its city status only in 1910! And yet today, it is the second largest city in Israel (Jerusalem being the first).

Settled on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv serves countless functions in Israel. It is a business center, a home for students, a political hub, a beach town, a tourist destination, and a gathering place for social life in the center of Israel. Tel Aviv is the first city that tourists tend to know by name. The main airport to Israel is located there.

Tel Aviv and Joppa (Jaffa) Beginnings

Tel Aviv was established near the historic port of Joppa (also known as Jaffa or Yafo) on the Sharon Plain. Joppa is the biblically known name for what today we call “Jaffa” in English, “Yafo” in Hebrew, and “Yafa” in Arabic. Initially, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were separate cities, but due to the rapid development of the new conurbation Jaffa was incorporated into the southern part of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv primarily has a Jewish population, and Jaffa is primarily Arab.

Picturesque Jaffa has retained its unique character to this day. The old buildings divided by winding streets are now home to many artists, art galleries, and restaurants. It is also home to some of the poorest residents of the city and the contemporary bohemian crowd. 

The old artists quarter, I. Yaffo-Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv History

The origins of Tel Aviv date back to the late 19th century when Jewish immigrants from Europe, inspired by the ideas of Zionism, decided to return to their historical land. The first settlements emerged as suburban districts on the outskirts of Jaffa and were intended to be a Jewish center of excellence – built on the foundation of good laws, hygiene principles, and aesthetics. 

Tel Aviv Meaning

The official name of “Tel Aviv” meaning “Hill of Spring,” was adopted in the early 20th century. Despite the name of the town, there are actually very few hills in the area. However, there is the Yarkon River that flows into the Mediterranean Sea, which makes the land very fertile.

How the City Grew

The city’s population dramatically increased in the 1920s and 1930s, especially as the Nazis came to power in Germany. By 1937, Tel Aviv had 150,000 inhabitants (Jaffa had only 69,000). Following Arab strikes in Jaffa, a separate seaport and airport were built in Tel Aviv. As a result, the city gained independence and became a self-sufficient commercial center.

Tel Aviv and Israel’s Independence

The nation of Israel just celebrated its 76th birthday on May 14, 2024. Even in the midst of this on-going war, Israel stands strong because God continues to faithfully uphold this nation and people! So, what does Israel’s independence have to do with Tel Aviv?

Well, on May 14, 1948, Ben Gurion was in the city of Tel Aviv when he made the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel! This is significant because 76 years ago the world witnessed God fulfilling biblical prophecy as Ben Gurion stood in the city of Tel Aviv declaring that the Jewish people have their own land and nation!

“And I will bring my people Israel back from exile. ‘They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.” – Amos 9:14-15

God promised that He would bring the Jewish people back to a land of their own. And in 1948, this long awaited promise and prophecy was fulfilled! God also declared that he would never take them away from the land he gave them. After 76 years of many attacks on the nation of Israel and the current war Israel finds itself in, we stand in awe of God who has been faithful to continuously defend the Jewish people, this nation, and the land of Israel! 

Old town hall in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv-Joppa in the Bible

The city of Joppa (Jaffa) is mentioned a few different times in the Bible. The first reference is found in Joshua 19:46, which explains that the land of Joppa was given to the tribe of Dan as an inheritance.

A Biblical Port City

Then, during the reign of King Solomon in the book of 2 Chronicles, we see Joppa mentioned as a port city.

“Now let my lord send his servants the wheat and barley and the olive oil and wine he promised, and we will cut all the logs from Lebanon that you need and will float them as rafts by sea down to Joppa. You can then take them up to Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 2:15-16

Joppa/Jaffa played an important role by being a main port city for Solomon to ship in the necessary items needed to build the Temple.
And then again in the book of Ezra (3:7) it mentions Joshua giving items and money to the masons and carpenters in return for them shipping cedar logs from Lebanon to Joppa for the building of the Temple. 

Welcome sign to Yaffo in Tel Aviv, an ancient biblical port city

Joppa in the Bible: Jonah

And we all know the famous Bible story of Jonah, but did you know that the place he hopped on a ship to flee from God was Joppa (Jaffa)?

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” – Jonah 1:3

Joppa in the Bible: Simon the Tanner

And lastly, in book of Acts, we hear about a beautiful miracle story that happened in the city of Joppa! Peter stayed there with Simon who lived in a house by the sea. A woman named Tabitha (Dorcas) also lived in Joppa was a disciple who had a heart to help the poor. Unfortunately, Tabitha became very sick and died. Once Peter heard about her death, he went to her house to pray for her.

“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive.  This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.” – Acts 9:40-43

And lastly, this is not found in the Bible, but some believe that this port of Joppa/Jaffa was found by Japheth, the youngest son of Noah. 

A leather tannery.

Significance of Tel Aviv and Jaffa to Christians Today

So, as we can see from these passages in the Bible, Jaffa and Tel Aviv hold significance to Christians today. 

The city of Jaffa/Joppa & Tel Aviv remind us:

  1. Of God’s inheritance he has for the Jewish people. God gave the land of Joppa to one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the tribe of Dan. So, we can trust that God will continue to guard and protect this land that He has given to the people and nation of Israel.

  2. To trust God to provide everything we need to do what He has called us to do. God provided supplies at the port of Joppa for Solomon to build the Temple God had asked him to build. 
  3. Of the importance of obeying God no matter what He asks us to do. As we stand on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv and see the ships coming and going, we can remember the story of Jonah and choose to run to the Lord, instead of running away from Him.

  4. That our God is a God of miracles! God performed a miracle through Peter to bring Tabitha back to life! If you stay in a hotel or an Airbnb in Tel Aviv/Jaffa, you can look out your window and reflect on the life of Peter who lived by the sea with Simon. Even through all of the mistakes Peter made in his walk with God, he continued to have faith and was used by God to bring healing and restoration to many. Let us have faith like Peter to pray for Yeshua to do the impossible!

  5. That we can trust our God who fulfills His promises to His people. As we just celebrated the 76th birthday of the nation of Israel, we can stand firm in knowing that our God will continue to guard and protect this nation, people, and land, even in the midst of this on-going battle and war.

Beaches and Bible

So, the next time you find yourself in Israel, take a visit to Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Once you hop off the plane and land in the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, stay a day or two to explore not only the nice beaches, but also the history from the Bible found within the city of Jaffa (Joppa)!

Visiting Israel: In the Footsteps of Jesus: Free PDF Download

It is quite exciting to think that while touring Israel you are walking on the same land that Jesus did.

Whether it is the reason why you came to Israel or not, it is worth noting which locations were significant to His life and ministry. God chose this piece of land to send His Son to live on earth. Many archeological findings confirm the locations mentioned in the Bible.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Kayla Muchnik enjoys communicating who God is through writing, dancing, and discipleship. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and two daughters. In 2021, Kayla and her husband started Muchnik Media, a freelance media business focused on writing and videography. In April 2023, she published a book called, “How’s Your Heart? – Bible Study and Adventure Workbook.” On a normal day, you can find Kayla spending time with God with a pen in one hand and a cappuccino in the other, dancing around the house with her two daughters, or drinking a tea at night with her husband and talking about the day.
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