Today took me to Ramle to celebrate the 1300th birthday of the only city founded by the Moslems in the land of Israel until the modern period. I have written about Ramle before here focusing on its Great Mosque.
Besides visiting a mosque and a few churches, our group had one of my favorite experiences in Ramle, although it may not be listed on any tourist map. Walking from the area of the Great Mosque to the Greek Orthodox church of St. George, we walked along a narrow alley. This alley which is bordered on one side by the abandoned Armenian compound and on the other by dilapidated ancient dwellings interspersed with modern parking lots, was at one time the main road of Ramle.
When the city was rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1068 in which 15,000 were killed and all but two of the homes were destroyed, instead of clearing away the rubble and rebuilding, the city center simply moved 1 km. to the east. Around this new center was built the main road which would service the main religious institutions of the city – the Great Mosque, the Armenian compound, the Greek Orthodox center and the Catholic church.
But not only is this the main road in Ramle, this is the road which serviced all pilgrims who entered the Land of Israel in Jaffa and were headed for Jerusalem. Crusaders who found the doors of Ramle open to them, Jewish travelers such as Benjamin Metudella, and Arab merchants surely would have walked this path.
The size is a bit surprising. Although three people can walk abreast easily, four cannot. It is quite a stark difference from the Roman Cardo in Jerusalem which is wider than many modern roads. After the Moslem conquest in 638 C.E., the chariot disappeared and would only return in the second half of the 19th century C.E. Laden mules ruled the roads for 1200 years; and as long as two of these beasts could pass each other, the road was wide enough.
A trip down this street, and a bit of imagination, can transport you back to these times, and lead you on a pilgrimage of your own making.
- Pool of Arches
- White Tower
- Ramle Museum