Infobox Israel municipality

mayor= Yoel Lavie

Ramla ( _he. רַמְלָה "Ramlāh"; _ar. الرملة, also Ramle and sometimes Rama), is a city in central Israel with a mixed Arab and Jewish population. Ramla was founded circa 705–715 CE by the Umayyad Caliph Suleiman ibn Abed al-Malik. It was conquered many times in the course of its history, by the Abbasids, the Ikhshidids, the Fatamids, the Seljuqs, the Crusaders, the Mameluks, the Turks and the British. Under the Arab and Ottoman rule the city become an important trade center in Palestine. Napoleon's army occupied Ramla in 1799 on its way to Acre. The city suffered severe damage from earthquakes in 715, 1033, 1068, 1546 and 1927. After an outbreak of the Black Plague in 1347, which decimated the population, an order of Franciscan monks established a presence in the city. [ Historical timeline at the Ramla Museum, http://ilmuseums.com/museum_eng.asp?id=193] .

In recent years, attempts have been made to develop and beautify the city, which has been plagued by neglect, financial problems and a negative public image. New shopping malls and public parks have been built, and a municipal museum opened in 2001. [ [http://www.ramla.muni.il/ עיריית רמלה - אתר האינטרנט ] ]


Early history

According to the 9th century Arab geographer Ya'qubi, "al-Ramleh" (Ramla) was founded in 716 by the Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik, and its name was derived from the Arabic word "Raml"—meaning sand. The early residents came from nearby "Ludd" (Lydda, Lod). Ramla flourished as the capital of "Jund Filastin", which was one of the five districts of the "ash-Sham" (Syrian) province of the Arab Ummayad and Abbasid empire. Ramla was the principal city and district capital until the arrival of the Crusaders in the 11th century. [Guy Le Strange, "Palestine under the Moslems"] Ramla's White Mosque was hailed as the finest in the land, outside of Jerusalem. The remains of this mosque, flanked by a minaret added at a later date, can still be seen today. In the courtyard are underground water cisterns from this period. ["Encyclopedia of Islam", article "al-Ramla"; Myriam Rosen-Ayalon, The first century of Ramla, "Arabica", vol 43, 1996, pp250–263.] Ramla was mentioned in early Jewish texts as "Hollit HaMehoz" ("holl" is Hebrew for sand; "mehoz" means district).

An Arab geographer, el-Muqadasi ("the Jerusalemite"), describes Ramla at the peak of its prosperity: "It is a fine city, and well built; its water is good and plentiful; it fruits are abundant. It combines manifold advantages, situated as it is in the midst of beautiful villages and lordly towns, near to holy places and pleasant hamlets. Commerce here is prosperous, and the markets excellent...The bread is of the best and the whitest. The lands are well favoured above all others, and the fruits are the most luscious. This capital stands among fruitful fields, walled towns and serviceable hospices...".

Ramla's economic importance, shared with the neighboring city of Lydda, was based on its strategic location. Ramla was at the intersection of two major roads, one linking Egypt with Syria and the other linking Jerusalem with the coast. [Guy Le Strange, "Palestine under the Moslems"; "Encyclopedia of Islam", article "al-Ramla".]

In the early years of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, control over this stratgeic location led to three consecutive battles between the Crusaders and Egyptian armies from Ascalon. As Crusader rule stabilized, Ramla became the seat of a seigneury in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (the Lordship of Ramla within the County of Jaffa and Ascalon). It was a city of some economic significance and an important station for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. The Crusaders identified it with the biblical Ramathaim and called it Arimathea. ["Encyclopedia of Islam", article "al-Ramla".]

Ramla was sometimes referred to as "Filastin", in keeping with the common practice of referring to districts by the name of their main city . [Rabbi Ashtory HaParchi (lived in Palestine ca. 1310–1355), in his travel book "Kaftor VaPerach" twice mentions this practice; also a 1326 report in "The Travels of Ibn Battuta", ed. H.A.R. Gibb (Cambridge University Press, 1954), 1:71–82. For the earlier period: Amikam Elad, Two identical inscriptions from Jund Filastin from the reign of the 'Abbasid Caliph, Al-Muqtadir, "Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient", vol. 35 (1992) pp301–360.]

On March 2, 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Ramla during his unsuccessful bid to conquer Palestine, using the Franciscan hospice as his headquarters. [ [http://www.napoleon-series.org/ins/scholarship98/c_jaffa.html INS Scholarship 1998: Jaffa, 1799 ] ]

Modern history

In the early days of the Ottoman period, Ramla was a desolate town with few inhabitants. In 1548, 528 Muslim families and 82 Christian families were living there [Amnon Cohen and Bernard Lewis, "Population and Revenue in the Towns of Palestine in the Sixteenth Century" (Princeton, N.J., 1978)] Expansion began only at the end of the 19th century. [Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, "The Population of the Large Towns in Palestine During the First Eighty Years of the Nineteenth Century, According to Western Sources", in "Studies on Palestine during the Ottoman Period", ed. Moshe Ma'oz (Jerusalem, 1975), 49–69.] Under the British Mandate, the population grew steadily, reaching 12,000 Muslims and 3,300 Christians in 1945. [British Mandatory statistics: census of 1931, village statistics of 1945.] Although Ramla was an Arab city, it had a small Jewish community until the Arab riots in 1936–1939 [ [http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9062601 Ramla - Britannica Online Encyclopedia ] ] [From the sources listed above: no Jews in 1525, 1538, 1548, 1592; two in 1852, 35 in 1922, eight in 1931, none 1944 or 1945.] Sheikh Mustafa Khairi was mayor of Ramla from 1920 to 1947. [ [http://www.palestineremembered.com/al-Ramla/al-Ramla/Picture2568.html Sheikh Mustafa Yousef Ahmad Abdelrazzaq El-Khairi (El-Khayri) The Mayor of Ramla (1920-1947) ] ]

Ramla was part of the territory allotted to the Arab state under the 1947 UN Partition Plan. [http://domino.un.org/maps/m0103_1b.gif] However, Ramla's geographical location and its strategic position on the main supply route to Jerusalem made it a point of contention during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Palestinian militias organized by Hasan Salama and others operated in and around Ramla, resisting Israeli attacks and launching attacks on Jewish settlements and vehicles. [Morris, "The Birth of the Palestine Refugee Problem Revisited" (Cambridge University Press, 2004), p88.] An Irgun bomb in the Ramla market on February 18 killed many Palestinian civilians. After a number of unsuccessful raids on Ramla, the Israeli army launched Operation Dani. Ramla was captured on 12–12 July 1948, a few days after the capture of Lydda. The Palestinian resistance surrendered on July 12, [Morris (2004), p427.] and most of the remaining inhabitants were driven out on the orders of David Ben-Gurion. [ Many of the refugees including a large number of children died (at least 400+ according to the Arab historian 'Aref al-Aref) from thirst, hunger, and heat exhaustion after being stripped of their valuables on the way out by Israeli soldiers. Morris, "Operation Dani and the Palestinian Exodus from Lydda and Ramle in 1948", "The Middle East Journal", 40 (1986) 82–109; Morris (2004), pp429–430, who quotes the orders; Rabin memoirs (censored section, "The New York Times", October 23, 1979).] After the Israeli capture, some 400 Palestinians remained in Ramla.

The Israeli government used the depopulated town to house the masses of Jewish immigrants arriving at this time. By February 1949, the Jewish population was over 6,000. Ramla remained economically depressed over the next two decades, although the population steadily mounted, reaching 34,000 by 1972. [A. Golan, Lydda and Ramle: "From Palestinian-Arab to Israeli Towns", 1948–1967, "Middle Eastern Studies" 39,4 (2003) 121–139.]

In the 1960s, Ramla was noted for its movie theaters and vibrant nightclub scene, which later relocated to Tel Aviv. Israeli singer Gaby Shoshan was a resident of Ramla.

Landmarks and notable buildings

The Tower of Ramla, also known as the White Tower, was built in the 13th century. It served as the minaret of the White Mosque ("al-Masjid al-Abyad") erected by Caliph Suleiman in the 8th century CE, of which only remnants remain today. [ [http://www.antiquities.org.il/site_Item_eng.asp?id=125 Israel Antiquities Authority - Gallery of Sites and Finds ] ] The tower is six-stories high, with a spiral staircase of 119 steps. ["The Guide to Israel", Zeev Vilnai, Hamakor Press, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 208.]

The Hospice of St. Nicodemus and St. Joseph of Arimathea on Ramla's main boulevard, Herzl Street, is easily recognized by its clock-faced, square tower. It belongs to the Franciscan church. Napoleon used the hospice as his headquarters during his Palestine campaign in 1799.

The Ramla Museum is housed in the former municipal headquarters of the British Mandatory authorities. The building, from 1922, incorporates elements of Arab architecture such as arched windows and patterned tiled floors. After 1948, it was the central district office of the Israeli Ministry of Finance. In 2001, the building became a museum documenting the history of Ramla. [ [http://ilmuseums.com/museum_eng.asp?id=193 Ramla Museum @ ilMuseums.com ] ]


Archaeological excavations in Ramla conducted in 1992-1995 unearthed the remains of a dyeing industry near the White Mosque; hydraulic installations such as pools, subterranean reservoirs and cisterns; and abundant ceramic finds that include glass, coins and jar handles stamped with Arabic inscriptions. [ [http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~semitic/wl/digsites/SLevant/Ramla2006/ Vincenz : Ramla | The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications ] ]

Cave discovery

In May 2006, a cave containing several previously unknown species of invertebrates was discovered in Ramla. A bulldozer working in the Nesher cement quarry on the outskirts of Ramla accidentally broke into the subterranean cavern. The finds have been attributed to the cave's isolation, which has created a unique ecosystem. With several large halls on different levels, it measures 2,700 meters long, making it the second largest lime cave in Israel. [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3257522,00.html Underground world found at quarry - Israel Culture, Ynetnews ] ]

One of the finds was an eyeless troglobite or a blind scorpion, given the name "Akrav israchanani" honoring the researchers who identified it, Israel Naaman and Hanan Dimentman. All ten of the blind scorpions had been dead for several years, possibly because the food supply in the cave had dwindled. Seven more species of crustaceans and springtails were discovered in "Noah's Ark Cave," as it has been dubbed, several of them unknown to science. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/883837.html One year later, 'Noah's Ark' cave is no longer a safe haven - Haaretz - Israel News ] ]


According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) , a total of 63,462 people were living in Ramla at the end of 2004. In 2001, the ethnic makeup of the city was 80% Jewish, 20% Arab (16% Muslim Arabs and 4% Christian Arabs). In 2001, there were 32,000 males and 30,000 females. The population breakdown by age was 36% in the 0–19 age bracket, 18% aged 20–29, 19% aged 30–44, 15% aged 45–59, 3% aged 60–64, and 9% aged 65 and older. The population growth rate in 2001 was 1.0%.

Ramla is the center of Karaite Judaism in Israel. In 2006, 12,000 Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and 5,000 Ethiopian Jews were living in Ramla. [http://www.metimes.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20060620-105420-1242r]


According to CBS data, there were 21,000 salaried workers and 1,700 self-employed persons in Ramla in 2000. The mean monthly wage for a salaried worker was NIS 4,300, with a real increase of 4.4% over the course of 2000. Salaried males had a mean monthly wage of NIS 5,200, with a real increase of 3.3%, compared to NIS 3,300 for women, with a real increase of 6.3%. The average income for self-employed persons was NIS 4,900. A total of 1,100 persons received unemployment benefits, and 5,600 received income supplements.


According to CBS, there are 31 schools and 12,000 students in the city. These include 22 elementary schools with a student population of 7,700 and nine high schools with a population of 3,800. In 2001, 47% of Ramla's 12th grade students graduated with a "bagrut" matriculation certificate. Many of the Jewish schools are run by Jewish orthodox organisations.

The Arabs, both Muslims and Christian, increasingly depend on own private schools and not Israeli governmental schools. There are currently two Christian schools, such as Terra Santa School, and there is one Islamic school in preparations.

The "Open House" in Ramla is a preschool and daycare center for Arab and Jewish children. In the afternoons, Open House runs extracurricular coexistence programs for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children. [http://www.bethevergreen.org/cbeuploads/Blog_part4.pdf]

Notable residents

*Khalil al-Wazir aka Abu Jihad: Palestinian Arab co-founder of the Fatah organization
*Michael Fanous: peace activist [ [http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2002/07/14717.shtml portland imc - 2002.07.18 - Peace Offering ] ]
*Amir Hadad: tennis player [ [http://www.asapsports.com/show_interview.php?id=16875 ASAP Sports - Tennis - 2002 - WIMBLEDON - July 1 - Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi ] ]
*Moni Moshonov: actor
*Shay Tubali: writer [http://www.ithl.org.il/author_info.asp?id=277]

ister cities

*flagicon|USA Kansas City, Missouri
*flagicon|Canada Vaughan, Ontario, Canada


External links

* [http://www.ramla.muni.il Official site] he icon
* [http://www.palestineremembered.com/al-Ramla/al-Ramla/index.html al Ramla] , Palestine Remembered
* Ramla Museum http://ilmuseums.com/museum_eng.asp?id=193
* [http://www.grups.pangea.org/pipermail/fsmed-general/Week-of-Mon-20041213/000544.html "A Dangerous Tour at Ramle", by Eitan Bronstein]
* [http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=7645 Ramla Mayor adamantly opposed to Arab street names, Asharq Al-awsat, January 13, 2007]
* [http://www.ramla-st.co.il Portal Ramla]
* [http://www.israelservicecorps.com/community/default.asp Israel Service Corps: Ramla Community Involvement]

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