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Ramallah or Ramla

As the new images of violence from the Middle East, where the endless fight between Israelis and Palestinians, emanating from the hate speech of Ariel Sharon, rightly known as "Butcher of Beirut", in late September 2000 began to beam and fast across all over the electronic and print media globally, several cities lying dormant for many years in occupied lands seems to have been resurrected.

The Pakistanis in general and those living in the western world are often found baffled in controversies among themselves in educational institutes, works places, streets and in newspaper offices over the name of cities in the occupied lands of Palestine.

"Is'it Ramallah or Ramla?" is one of the most frequent debated question these days. Here in Pakistan people from all walks of life, irrespective of their religion,creed and the status in society are confused over the labyrinth of these names.

The fact is that Ramallah and Ramla are entirely two separates cities in Palestine (present day Israel) living in the same latitude but about 32 kilometers apart of each other.

Ramallah is a town in Central Palestine, lies adjacent to the town of Al-Birah and 16 kilometer north of Al-Quds (present day Jerusalem). It was part of Jordan but since the ignominious Six-Day War of 1967 Israel annexed it and has been under Israeli administration as part of the West Bank territory.

An ancient city whose historic origin in Islamic books is traced about 1800 B.C, was found during the Canaan era. The prefix "Ram" is derived from Aremies language widely spoken during the Sumerians and Babylonians time. In that language the word means 'fort' or 'height'. Thus Ramallah is "Fort of Allah" or "Height of Allah" and not Hindu version of God, as people continue to argue.

The city is situated on the crest of the Judean Hills at an elevation of 2,861 feet (872m) above sea evel, has fine summer breeze and had long been a popular Arab resort. The surrounding area is fertile. Educational institutes consists of Birzeit University which was founded in 1924.

Whereas Ramla is another city which lies on the coastal plain southeast of Tel Aviv and close to the famous Palestinian sea port of Yafo and Jafa.

Ramla is the only city founded by the Arabs in Palestine. It was established in 716 by the Caliph Sulemyman bin 'Abdul Malik, who made it the administrative capital of Palestine.

The city is famous for the Al-Jamfal-Abyad (the White Mosque). Today only ruins of this mosque remain, but the minaret of the White Mosque, the so-called White Tower, 89 feet tall, added by the Maluk Sultan Babar, still stands.

During the First Crusade (1096-99), the city was captured and fortified by the Crusaders, but all these Unifications proved temporary and were destroyed by the Great Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi when he took he city from the crusaders in 1187.

Fayyaz A. Chaudhary Karachi, Sindh