By: Dr. Avi Sasson, The Land of Israel Studies Department, Ashkelon Academic College.
Address: Hashmonaim St., in front of Lod College (this street was called Faisal St. during the British Mandate).
Location: the sabil (public drinking fountain) was built at an important crossroads, on the road leading from the south through the city, and heading towards the Judean foothills (contemporary Ben Shemen area). The road went through Lod’s threshing floors area (today – Hashmonaim St. and the Israel Border Police camp), an area clearly seen in World War I aerial photos. Another road branched out from the main road and went north, into the old city. The sabil is unique, in that it was built outside the town. It was probably the first structure built in the southern part of Lod.
The history of the site: One of Lod's elders, Ziva Getraide, claimed that the site was built at the end of the 19th century by one of Lod’s wealthy residents who owned large tracts of land in the area. During this period, the mayor of Lod was a woman from the Hasuna family. The waqf leased all of Lod's wells to the Hasuna woman for a period of 100 years, and the residents of Lod paid for the water they used. The wealthy man also tried to lease the wells from the waqf but failed. To show he did not give up easily, he dug his own well and built a sabil in front of it. This story may explain why this privately built sabil is so large and elaborate.
When the digging of the well was finished, it was understood that its water was saline and undrinkable. Some say that the old wealthy man died soon afterwards out of grief over this incident. To this day, members of the Hasuna family are proud of their well’s tasty and healthy water. (Getraide 1992: 17-18; Hasuna Pers. Com.).
An old photograph of the site shows the sabil incorporated into a wall encircling the biara – a complex including a well and a residence. The façade of the sabil protruded about a meter (96 cm) from this wall. The wall is gone today and only the sabil remains. The structures adjacent to the sabil were built during the British Mandate in the 1930s. The structure is a 3.5 m high and 7 m wide, built mainly of chalk ashlars. The top course, with a width of 22 cm, is made of limestone ashlars. The second course (also 22 cm wide) protrudes 3 cm from the wall, thus creating a cornice for the whole structure. The masonry was done on two levels. The ashlars at the façade and the exposed side are carfully dressed, while those hidden by the biara complex wall are less so.
A large arch creates a 91 cm deep recess in the structure’s façade. Each pillar of this arch is shaped like three pillars with diameters of 25, 27, and 22 cm.
The sabil has two tap openings, each situated inside a stone base decorated as a round pillar base. The right tap bore diameter is 7 cm, while the diameter of the left one is 14 cm. The pillars’ outer diameters are 29 cm. Each is positioned inside a 76X85 cm square frame. Each frame creates a star shape whose center is the tap opening. Remains of the nails for hanging drinking cups can be seen 10 cm left of the tap’s square frames. The distance between the two squares is 64 cm.
The base of the arch measures 3.7 meters. A trough under the taps is 0.45 cm. deep. The original level of the sabil base was about half a meter below the level of the modern street. The length of the trough measures 3.44 x 0.7 meters. The trough edge is bordered by a row of five stones intertwined with each other, at the height of 0.2 meters. We did not find remnants of plaster in the trough and in the water container but the base of the trough, as the base of the water container, was paved with bituminous limestone, which is relatively less permeable when compared to other stones.
At the top of the arch and in its center, at the height of 2.4 meters, is a square depression which measures 0.66 x .60 meters, at a depth of 0.11 meters. This depression served as a platform for a memorial or dedication tablet which was placed by the builders of the sabil. There is no evidence of the inscription itself or its possible content.
The Water Well
The water well did not survive, though oral testimony reveals that it was in the field to the north of the sabil. According to the general design of the sabil, and especially the northern wall of the water tank, it would seem that the well was adjacent to it on the north side. On the outer side of the northern wall of the water tank, the beginning of an arch can be discerned, which appears to have covered the well. Hasuna and Gertraide report that the well was north of the sabil (on today’s empty lot). Yaakov Yinon reported (orally) that the depth of the well was 60-70 meters.
A large water tank was built behind the sabil, whose sides were made of chalk stone. The tank was built as a large arch that reaches from the façade wall towards the north. The roof of the tank is built of sandstone, and is plastered with a mixture of coarse sand and crushed seashells. The maximum height of the water tank is as high as the sabil, 3.5 meters, its length is 7 meters, and its width is 5.8 meters. The eight lower courses of the tank are built of chalk and held together with lime-rich plaster. The upper courses are held together with mud and honey plaster. The inner walls of the water tank were not plastered, but its floor was built with bituminous chalk stone. The inner measurements of the tank are: length 5.9 meters, width 3.5 meters, and height 3 meters. The tap openings are about 20 cm. above the floor of the tank, and are triangular shaped. The entrance to the water tank was through an opening in the south-eastern corner of the roof. The measurements of the opening: 0.5 x 1 meters, from which three steps descended into the tank. There are remains of a small window on the eastern wall of the tank, 0.25 meters high and measuring 0.3 x 0.3 meters. It appears that the drainpipe that filled the water tank was built into it. The water to the drainpipe came, it seems, through a channel that was built along the length of the well’s ceiling and continued to the drainpipe, as we have found at other sites (such as Biarat Hanun, Biarat Rav Yisrael Salant Street in Tel Aviv, and others).
It is therefore unclear why such a large structure was built behind the sabil.
It is peculiar that there are no indications for the presence of water in the tank and no signs of water on the walls. This is astonishing and perhaps reinforces the legends that this sabil and well were never in use.
Surveyed and documented by Elharar and Cohen,Winter 2000, Avi Sasson Archives.
An interview with Ziva Getraide on Nov. 13, 2001 (she did not see the well). Interview and tour with Muhannad Abu Rajab Hasuna, one of the elders of the Hasuna clan in Lod, Friday, Dec. 21, 2001, with the participation of: Amnon, Yonal and Avi.
According to Tamar Tochler, the Hasuna Family claims ownership of the site.
Not marked on the urban map of 1929, though the structure appears there.
Methodological comment: The British did not mark all the wells, fountains and sabils in the Lod region, as they did in other regions.
Lidda, 1:1250, (13. A), Survey of Palestine, 1929.