row boating in land-locked Ramle?
Too strange to be true. Yet, there was the sign beckoning us on: Boating
Under the Arches. Our companions for the day were two adorable almost
13-year-olds: a post-Bat Mitzvah girl, and a pre-Bar Mitzvah boy — the perfect
cover to “gone rowing” in the middle of the day.
We passed through the center of Ramle
— a town with a mixed Christian, Muslim and Jewish population — that lies
between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as we followed the signs.
We were led down the steep stairs
into the underground pools where the rowboats awaited us. As the two navigators
oared among the spiring 8th century arches, the feeling was of Disneyland
— but no, this was the real thing: underground, under arches, built during
the rule of Harun al-Rashid in the 8th century. The Unayziyya Cistern,
also known as the pool of St. Helena, served as reservoirs for this
once strategic town and the surrounding area.
Today the reservoir is a tourist site
where visitors are invited to learn about the ancient water collection system
as they row between the arches.
In addition to the reservoirs, do
not miss the Square Tower, built in 1318 by the Mameluk Sultan, Klaun Zelach.
The tower, which stands 30 meters high, was built with a dual purpose: both
for the muezzin to call the community to prayer and as a watchtower. Adjacent
to the tower is the White Mosque dating back to the 8th century.
the tower looking to the east one can see the bell tower of the Franciscan
church, Nesher Concrete Factory, the hills of the Shefelah (lowlands) region,
Ben Shemen forest, and as far as the Judean hills and Samaria. Gazing west,
the new water tower in the Ben Gurion neighborhood of Ramle and the Tel Aviv
skyline can be seen. The city of Rehovot, home to the Weizmann Institute
and the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University is visible.
Today as in the past, this multi-cultural
city welcomes new immigrants to the region: the most recent influx of immigrants
is from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
Text by J. Isaacson
| Hours for Boating Under the Arches:
8:00-14:00 Sun-Thurs, open until noon on Fridays and holiday eves; open
until 15:30 on Saturday and holidays.
Learn more about Ramle.