Known in Arabic as Yafa, in Hebrew as Yafo, and in ancient biblical writings as Joppa, Jaffa has been occupied for millennia and conquered by numerous invaders and empires, including Romans, crusaders, Ottomans, Napoleon, the Egyptian campaign of Ibrahim Pasha, the British, and finally, Israel. Along with ACRE, Jaffa was one of Palestine's main two seaports until the twentieth century. It was a trade city of major importance, as well as the traditional point of arrival for first pilgrims and later Jewish immigrants.
Given the city's fertile and irrigated farmland and central location, agriculture and trade were the mainstays of Jaffa's economy. Jaffa was also noted for its large fruit groves, particularly its famous orange groves, home of the renowned Jaffa orange, which was exported throughout the world.
Jaffa's position as Palestine's gateway to the world made it one of the country's most important centers of trade. Trade grew during the Egyptian period, and Jaffa's size and importance grew further as Palestine became increasingly linked with the industrial European economy in the nineteenth century .Importing and exporting were facilitated by the opening of a railroad line to Jerusalem in 1892. After World War I, the railroad line starting in Qantara was extended through Jaffa to Haifa. Jaffa was also a center for fishing and the manufacture of soap and olive oil, as well as benefiting from tourism and pilgrimage.
Jaffa's population began to grow in the nineteenth century, just as its demography began to change. Population increased from 23,000 in 1892 to 70,000 just prior to World War I. Not all of the new inhabitants were Arabs, however. Settlers from the German religious Temple Society movement arrived in 1869. The Roman Catholic Franciscan Order built a monastery on the site of the citadel, and French and Italian merchants began arriving as trade with Europe expanded. Beginning around 1841, Sephardic Jews from North Africa began settling in Jaffa as well. They were joined by European Jews from the 1880s. Despite the establishment of the all-Jewish city of Tel Aviv in 1909 just to the north of Jaffa, Jaffa's Jewish population continued to grow.
Jaffa was also one of the main cultural centers for Palestinians. Its writers made important contributions to the Palestinian literary movement, and most of the country's Arabic newspapers were published there.
The PALESTINE MANDATE and the Palestinian Zionist conflict affected Jaffa's fortunes considerably. The city's population grew from 47,000 in 1922 to some 94,000 in 1944 (of whom 28,000 were Jews). But because of the 1936 general strike in the Palestinian sector, Haifa and Tel Aviv quickly eclipsed Jaffa in its role as the main port in Palestine, despite the opening of Jaffa's harbor that year. 'the city was also affected by the rising nationalist tensions between Jews and Palestinians, especially given the fact that Jaffa was the main port of entry for Jewish immigrants. Intercommunal violence escalated into general violence in April 1921. In June 1936, large parts of the old city were demolished by the British in the midst of the general strike.
In April 1948, during the ARAB-ISRAELI WAR OF 1948, Jaffa was attacked by Irgun and Haganah forces; it surrendered on May 13. After a mass exodus, only some 3,600 of its Palestinian inhabitants remained in the city by the end of 1948. The decline of Jaffa thereafter was signified by its merger with Tel Aviv and the establishment of a joint municipality .
Michael R. Fischbach
The above was quoted from Encyclopedia Of The Palestinians edited by Philip Mattar