Ramle is situated next to the Jaffa-Jerusalem highway and the ancient Via Maris, which connected Cairo in Egypt and Damascus in Syria.Because of its strategic location, Ramle has a long and checkered history. It was established between 705 and 715 by the Umayyad Caliph Suleiman ibn Abed al- Malik after the Arab conquest of the area from the Byzantine empire. The city was subsequently captured by the Abbasids, the Ikhshidids, the Fatamids, the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, the Turks, the British and ultimately by Israel.During the periods of the various Arab dynasties and the Turkish rule in Palestine, Ramle was an important regional center of commerce and administration.The White Mosque erected by Caliph Suleiman in the eighth century was a splendid edifice, considered the finest mosque outside Jerusalem from Damascus to Cairo. Today, the only remains of this fine edifice are the minaret known as the Tower of Ramle, or the White Tower, and some underground water cisterns. The minaret rises six stories high and has a spiral staircase of 119 steps.After 1948. Ramle became something of a backwater. When Israel occupied the city during the War of Independence, the majority of the town’s 16,000 residents, who were all Arabs, either fled or were expelled. The town was subsequently repopulated by Jewish immigrants. In 2012, the population numbered 73,000.Since 1948, the Arab population has risen through natural growth and immigration from surrounding villages to nearly 17,000.Though the population grew, the town remained a decaying backwater, from both a social and an economic perspective. Now this is changing. The municipality is making major efforts to beautify the city, emphasize its historical past and attract young professional families of a higher socioeconomic level.One of the new neighborhoods is called Shechunat Ha’omanim, the Artists’ Quarter. It is so called because the streets will be named after well-known local entertainers such as Shoshana Damari, Naomi Shemer, Ofra Haza, Yossi Banai, Ehud Manor and Shaike Ophir.The neighborhood is part of the initiative of Mayor Yoel Lavi to attract yuppies to Ramle by creating a self-contained neighborhood with excellent physical, cultural, educational and commercial infrastructures, as well as homes and apartments of a superior quality.Shechunat Ha’omanim is located in the southern part of the city, an area of 700 dunams (700,000 square meters). When completed, it will have 2,300 dwellings and approximately 10,000 inhabitants – a small city in itself.To date, some 1,000 housing units have been built. There are apartment buildings that range from three to nine stories, as well as semidetached houses.The apartments are large, with four or five rooms. There are also penthouses, duplexes and garden apartments. These last three categories are exceptionally large, with five or six rooms with a floor area of 150 to 180 sq.m.The neighborhood’s infrastructure is already in place. Besides streets, street lights, a sewage system and water mains, the municipality has already built a commercial center, kindergartens, an elementary school, day-care centers and a cultural and sports center, as well as religious facilities such as a synagogue and a mikve.The neighborhood is located near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with the extensive job opportunities they offer. Consequently, residents of Shechunat Ha’omanim can easily commute to work.They can also commute to the many employment, industrial and logistic centers surrounding Ben-Gurion International Airport.Lavi is very proud of his city. “Ramle is a charming city and will become even more so because of the steps we are taking to improve the infrastructure and beautify a city that has many lovely buildings,” he says. “In addition, we are rejuvenating the city because the new modern neighborhoods we are developing such Shechunat Ha’omanim are attracting young couples from Ramle itself and other parts of Israel.Consequently, these new neighborhoods are keeping young local couples from leaving Ramle to find accommodations elsewhere, and they are attracting young families from outside Ramle.We are therefore rejuvenating both the physical aspects of the city and its social makeup” Amit Bar-Tal, the concessionaire of the Re/Max real-estate agency network, told Metro, “Demand for real estate in Ramle is picking up. The price differential is very persuasive. Real estate, even in the most expensive areas in town such as Shechunat Ha’omanim, is much less expensive than real estate in the surrounding areas. Another reason for the increase in demand is the general atmosphere in Israel because demand for real estate is increasing all over the country.”Bar-Tal further explains that recently there has been another source of demand. Young families buy property in Ramle for investment purposes and use the proceeds to finance part of their rental costs in Tel Aviv, Givatayim, Modi’in or Rehovot. Yields on these properties are high. A three-room apartment in the center of town can cost as little as NIS 450,000. The monthly rent is around NIS 2,500, which works out to an annual yield of 6%.The yield on more expensive properties is less. In Shechunat Ha’omanim it can reach nearly 5% a year. Four-room apartments can cost from NIS 1 million to NIS 1.2m. and can be rented for a monthly NIS 4,000 to NIS 4,500, an annual yield of 4.5% to 4.8% .Joseph Prashkovsky, general manager of the Prashkovsky Investment and Construction company, who has a building project in the neighborhood, says, “We chose to build in Shechunat Ha’omanim for two reasons. It is centrally located with easy access to the national road network, and it has good investment potential. Real estate prices in Ramle, and that includes Shechunat Ha’omanim, are cheap in relation to realestate prices in the surrounding areas. Consequently, prices are rising.”Prashkovsky’s project in Shechunat Ha’omanim will have 174 apartments in two high-rise buildings.Shikun ve Binui also has a building project in Shechunat Ha’omanim called Halomot Lev Hapark. When completed, it will have 71 apartments of three, four and five rooms, plus penthouses and mini-penthouses. Prices will range from NIS 967,000 for a three-room apartment to NIS 1.7m. for a penthouse.