Journey to Jaffa – key city in the Crusades

Jaffa is now a suburb of Tel Aviv in Israel. But it was once a key city in the Crusades. And the site of the Battle of Jaffa between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart that brought the Third Crusade to an end.

It’s hard to emphasise how great a role Jaffa played in the Crusades. It had key strategic importance as a port. In 1192, King Richard the Lionheart – ruler of England and much of modern France – fought Saladin to a stalemate here. It forced the proud Saracen ruler to negotiate a truce.

Jerusalem had been lost by the crusaders just a few years earlier. And they didn’t regain it after the Battle of Jaffa. But the Muslim advance was stopped in its tracks. At least for a while.

Richard attacked from the sea. Initially he overestimated Saladin’s strength. But when reports came back to him of weakness on the Saracen side, he lost no time storming ahead. It’s said that at the risk of drowning, he waded into the sea and on to the beach to get going with his sword.

Today, Jaffa is rather diminished. It’s completely overshadowed in fact by neighbouring Tel Aviv. I thought on my visit it looked a bit beaten up though there are some quaint Ottoman era buildings. The restaurants were great and the people very friendly. But a small reflection of what it once was.

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