We’re always looking for new ways to show Israeli Seeds the nuances and contradictions that comprise our home. And there are few cities that better provide a microcosm for those tensions than Jaffa.
It’s one of the oldest cities in the region, and its history is visible—you can see how it has developed through its architecture and monuments. It tells a truly special, complicated geo-political story that is worth sharing.
And yet, some of its many complexities are political in nature. As staff, we don’t want to teach Seeds about Jaffa in a way that may be tinged with our own personal opinions or biases. We want Seeds to make their own decisions.
So when we brought 60 Israeli Seeds to explore the most ancient parts of Old Jaffa, we decided to try something new.
We divided the Seeds into six groups, each tasked with exploring Old Jaffa’s greatest historical and cultural landmarks. Once they found one of these landmarks, the group had to research what made it significant—learning about it independently using the sources they trust most—and send us a video explaining what they discovered. Every time a group shared a detailed historical explanation of what they learned, we would give them a hint for the next location, and their quest would continue; it was a history lesson by way of a scavenger hunt.
As we’ve never done a gathering quite like this before, we had no idea how the Seeds would receive it. But it was so incredible to see their creative muscles flexing in the videos they made. They could barely contain their enthusiasm, not just for the competition, but for the chance to explore Jaffa in a way they never had before.
Even here in Israel, most people only get to experience Jaffa cursorily, with no more depth than the average tourist. So our Seeds made the most of this opportunity to explore the city in such a novel way. From learning about the medieval citadel built by Frederick Barbarossa where St. Peter’s Church now stands, to Napoleon’s siege, to the first port in Israel-Palestine, there was no shortage of discoveries that surprised and excited. Before this, I don’t think any of the Seeds understood just how far back Jaffa’s history goes, nor how varied it is.
Most importantly, the scavenger hunt provided them with yet another example of just how complex our region is, and how many different narratives it holds. Seeds hear about Jaffa in the context of the conflict all the time, but in its 3,000 years, the city has experienced so many more they had never heard about before. The different historical eras they learned about exemplify this; Jaffa has known times of war and times of peace, times of unrest and times of coexistence. Having the city itself, its stones and sidewalks, tell the story—instead of us or their teachers or parents—helped them see Jaffa, and our shared history, in all its complications and contradictions.