Jaffa, Or Yafa (anc. Joppa; in the Hebrew Scriptures, Japho), a town and port of Palestine, 35 m. N. W. of Jerusalem; pop. about 10,000, of whom 4,500 are Moslems, 5,000 Christians, and about 500 foreigners and Jews. It is picturesquely situated on a little rounded hill, dipping on the west into the Mediterranean, and surrounded on the land side by orchards; the oranges are the finest of Syria. The town, which looks well from a distance, is a labyrinth of blind alleys and dilapidated lanes and streets. Regular lines of Austrian, French, and Russian steamers ply between Jaffa and European and Turkish ports. English and Egyptian steamers and a considerable number of sailing vessels also call occasionally. The present harbor consists of a strip of water nearly 100 yards wide, enclosed by a reef of rocks forming a kind of natural breakwater, which affords shelter to boats and small vessels. Jaffa, being the port of Nablus and Jerusalem, and of the whole country south as far as Gaza, is a place of commercial importance. The chief exports are grain, oils, soap, raisins, cotton, wool, colo-cynth, oranges, and lemons; imports, manufactured goods, rice, coffee, tea, and sugar.
There are several insignificant mosques and three large convents, and the town still retains some of its ancient fortifications; but it is now chiefly celebrated as a landing place of European pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. - Tradition gives to Jaffa an antediluvian existence. Among the maritime towns allotted to the tribe of Dan we find the name of Japho. It was the port at which the cedar and pine from Lebanon for the building of the temple of Solomon were landed. Jonah embarked thence for Tarshish. Peter the apostle resided in the house of " Simon the tanner." A house reputed to be the place where he had the vision is still pointed out to pilgrims. The town suffered much in the wars of the Asmoneans, and at the outbreak of the war with the Romans it was burned by Cestius Gallus and 8,000 of the inhabitants were slain. It was an important station during the crusades, and was finally taken by the Mohammedans from the Christians at the end of the 12th century. Captured by Napoleon in 1799, when a large part of the garrison were massacred at his command, the French suffered terribly there from an attack of the plague.
It was taken by Mehemet Ali in 1832, and retaken by the Turks in 1840. In 1866 a small colony of Americans attempted to establish a settlement there, but failed on account of internal discord, and most of them returned home. They were succeeded by a German colony, which is yearly increasing.