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  • Writer's pictureAnnemeet Hasidi-van Der Leij

Pool of Arches in Ramla, Israel

Ramla was founded in 716 CE by the governor of the Ummayad District of Palestine (Jund Filastin), Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik, brother and successor of Caliph Walid I, after the Arab conquest of the region. The name Ramla was derived from the Arabic word raml (رمل), which means sand. The first residents of Ramla came from the nearby town of Ludd/Lydda/Lod). Ramla flourished as the capital of Jund Filastin, which was one of the five districts of the Syrian province of the Ummayad and Abbasid empires. Ramla, in Hebrew, רַמְלָה, is a predominantly Jewish city with a significant Arab minority. It lies along the route of the Via Maris, connecting old Cairo with Damascus, at the intersection of the roads connecting the port of Jaffa with Jerusalem. It was conquered many times in the course of its history, by the Abbasids, the Ikhshidids, the Fatimids, the Seljuqs, the Crusaders, the Mameluks, the Turks, the British, and the Israelis. After an outbreak of the Black Death* in 1347, which greatly reduced the population, an order of Franciscan monks established a presence in the city. Under Arab and Ottoman rule the city became an important trade center. Napoleon's French Army occupied it in 1799 on its way to Acre.

Most of the town's Arab residents were expelled or fled during the 1948 Independance War while others remained in the town. 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. Today, five prisons are located in Ramla, including the infamous maximum-security Ayalon Prison.**

The Pool of Arches is left from the time when Israel was a part of the Abbasid caliphate. The Abbasid Caliphate was the third of the Islamic caliphates to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Abbasid dynasty descended from Muhammad's youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib (566–653 CE), from whom the dynasty takes its name. They ruled as caliphs, for most of their period from their capital in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, after assuming authority over the Muslim empire from the Umayyads in 750 CE. The underground water reservoir was built in 789 CE, in the days when the famous Caliph Harun al Rashid ruled from Baghdad. The year of its foundation is chipped into the plaster of the pool’s wall, saying;

"In the name of Allah and with Allah’s blessing, the agent of the Emir of the faithful ordered construction, may Allah lengthen his days, in the month of Haja in the year one hundred and seventy two.”(see photo above) The pool of Arches was built as a roofed water reservoir for the residents of Ramla. In Christian tradition, it is also called the Pool of St. Helena, based on a tradition according to which Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I, was the one who ordered it to be dug. The pool is also known as The Pool of The Goats in Arabic. In the past goats were watered here. The pool was fed by a central aqueduct coming from the region of Gezer, where the spring is that fed these pools. The remains of this aquaduct can be found next to road 6, the ancient road no.1. Outside the pools, a fountain, made of mud, was recently discovered in the course of an archaeological excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authorities. This is one of the oldest fountains found in Israel. A few stairs lead down to the pool, and there are three rows of columns built from stone, and each row has five columns which carry the curved arches on which the roof rests. Cut into the ceiling are square hatches through which previous generations apparently drew water with pails and ropes. In the winter, the water overflows and is pumped off. The Pool of Arches offers rowing boats to be used by adults and children.

*The Black Death/ plague was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people and peaking in Europe in the years 1348–50 CE.

**The hanging of Adolf Eichmann in Ramla: Otto Adolf Eichmann, 19 March 1906 – 31 May 1962, was a German Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust.

Eichmann was charged by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II.

In 1960 he was captured in Argentina by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service. Following a widely publicised trial in Israel, he was found guilty of war crimes and hanged in 1962.

Adolf Eichmann was hanged shortly before midnight on 31 May 1962, at the Ayalon prison in Ramla.

Eichmann refused a last meal, preferring instead a bottle of wine. He also refused to don the traditional black hood for his execution. His last words were:

"Long live Germany. Long live Argentina. Long live Austria. These are the three countries with which I have been most connected and which I will not forget. I greet my wife, my family, and my friends. I am ready. We'll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men. I die believing in God.”

Shortly after the execution, Eichmann's body was cremated at a secret location. At 4:00 am on 1 June, his ashes were scattered in international waters in the Mediterranean by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.

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