Israel’s Old Clock Towers

Clock towers were an essential part of any city in times when there were no wristwatches or cellphones. They helped citizens keep track of time. A big bell in the tower (like Big Ben in London) chimed the hour, and a large clock face gave a visual aid.

Nowadays, people certainly don’t need clock towers to tell time. But the structure itself is very beautiful and grabs the attention of everyone passing by.

Ottoman Turks constructed more than 100 clock towers throughout the Empire in honor of the 25th anniversary of the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1901. Six of them were built in what was then Palestine — in Jaffa, Acre (Akko), Jerusalem, Haifa, Safed (Tzfat) and Nablus (Shechem).

Israel Post issued postage stamps in 2004 depicting Zina and Zvika Roitman’s illustrations of five Israeli clock towers. These structures are picturesque backgrounds for a selfie, but don’t set your watch to the clocks because they are no longer reliable timekeepers.  

The clock tower in the old Jaffa on Shabbat. Photo: depositphotos.com

Jaffa Clock Tower

The Jaffa Clock Tower is one of seven clock towers built in Palestine during the Ottoman period.

The most popular clock tower in Israel is located in Clock Square at the seam of the Jaffa section of the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality. Construction was finished in 1903 with contributions from Arab and Jewish residents of Jaffa, then a separate city.

It was built to honor the 25th year of the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid the second. However, the initiative for construction actually came from the Jaffa Jewish community. The clock tower concept was Moritz Sheinberg’s, a watchmaker and one of the free masons who participated in the establishment of 17 shops on Bostros Street.

Jerusalem Clock Tower

The Jerusalem Clock Yower at Jaffa Gate, circa 1913. Photo via Gilai Collectibles

The Jerusalem Clock Tower at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, constructed in 1907, was the last one built by the Ottomans and the only one no longer standing. It was demolished by British Mandate officials in 1922, according to Yehuda Levanony, author of a book about the Ottoman clock towers in Israel.

Acre (Akko) Clock Tower

The four-story Acre clock was built in 1784 and had four clocks, each of which was replaced in 2001. One clock face has Hebrew letters, another Arabic numbers, a third Roman numerals and the fourth regular numbers.

Haifa Clock Tower

This ornamented six-story clock tower in downtown Haifa was built in front of the El-Jarina mosque, and it originally stood near the Ottoman government’s Saraya administrative center in Haifa. Once upon a time, it boasted four clocks but nowadays has only the remnants of a single replacement clock.

Safed Clock Tower

Built in the 1880s Ottoman government complex not far from Safed’s Old City, this four-story clock tower has four clocks on its third level, which were replaced in 2002.  The tower’s original bell, on the top level, rings every half hour. The Safed tourist office is also located in the building, which was reconstructed after the War of Independence when it was a home for the elderly.

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