An imposing stone structure that was used as one of the many oil presses in the town of Lod during the Ottoman period and the British Mandate. The structure consists of one large hall with several rows of pillars carrying groin vaults. The roof is built of flattened domes situated at the top of each vault.
Remnants of the olive crushing mills are still evident inside the structure. These were used for the first stage of the olive oil extraction. After the crushing, the olives were put into ‘aqals (round shallow baskets) that were stacked inside a press for extracting the oil from them. In antiquity, the pressure was obtained by using a long wooden beam with weights at its end. The Hebrew term for oil-press is named after this beam, and can be literally translated as “house of the beam”.
Surveys initiated by the British Mandate government show that the major olive oil production centers during the pre-modern era were in Nablus and the Upper Galilee. Nonetheless, Lod was one of the major oil production centers on the coastal plain – many oil presses operated in the city to process the harvests of the thousands of dunams of olive groves growing around the city. The remains of these groves can still be seen today near the city.
The 500-square-meter arches building was inspected by conservation engineers who found it to be massively built and well preserved. Some maintenance and restoration work is required, but it can be restored for use with a reasonable investment.
According to the Ancient Lod project plan, the structure will be restored by a conservation engineer, and handed over to an entrepreneur who will receive the right to operate it for several years. The structure can operate as a unique authentic restaurant, as well as a hall for cultural events.
Artist’s reconstruction of the restored Arches Building. Drawing: Gregory Katz.