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Ramla (Hebrew: רַמְלָה‎ Ramlāh; Arabic: الرملة‎ ar-Ramlah, also Ramlah, Ramle, Remle and sometimes Rama), is a city in central Israel. The city is predominantly Jewish with a significant Arab minority. Ramla was founded circa 705–715 AD by the Umayyad Caliph Suleiman ibn Abed al-Malik after the Arab conquest of the region. Ramla lays along the route of the Via Maris, connecting old Cairo (Fustat) 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 Fatamids, the Seljuqs, the Crusaders, the Mameluks, the Turks, the British, and the Israelis. After an outbreak of the Black Death in 1347, which decimated the population, an order of Franciscan monks established a presence in the city. Under Arab and Ottoman rule the city become 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 during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War while others remained in the town. The town was subsequently repopulated by Jewish immigrants. The Giv'on immigration detention centre is located in Ramla. 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. Landmarks and notable buildings Tower of Ramla 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.[27] The tower is six-stories high, with a spiral staircase of 119 steps. 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. The Pool of Arches, an underground water cistern, is currently under restoration. Also known as St. Helen’s Pool and Bīr al-Anezīya, it was built during the reign of the caliph Haroun al-Rashid in 789 AD (the early Islamic period) to provide Ramla with a steady supply of water. Archaeology Archaeological excavations in Ramla conducted in 1992-1995 unearthed the remains of a dyeing industry (Dar al-Sabbaghin, house of the Dyers) 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. Cave discovery Main article: Ayalon Cave 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. 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. Demographics 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. Ramla also has about 2,000 Jewish residents descended from the Marathi-speaking Karachi, Pakistan Bene Israel community. Income 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. Transportation original Ramla station building, circa 1930 Ramla Railway Station provides an hourly service on the Israel Railways Tel Aviv–Jerusalem line. The station is located in north east side of the city. It was most recently reopened on 12 April 2003, having existed for over a century at the same location. The station was originally opened in April 1891 and is the oldest active railway station in Israel. Education 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. Notable residents Khalil al-Wazir aka Abu Jihad: Palestinian Arab co-founder of the Fatah organization Michael Fanous: peace activist Amir Hadad: tennis player Yaqub al-Ghusayn: Arab nationalist leader of Youth Congress Party Moni Moshonov: actor Shay Tubali: writer Khayr al-Din al-Ramli: 17th-century Islamic legal scholar Elias Abuelazam

Edited by: marcelomds on 14.11.2010
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