Lawrence E. Stager

Ruined ramparts mark Ashkelon’s ancient defensive line. The 1.2-mile-long wall was purposely destroyed by Saladin exactly 800 years ago to prevent Ashkelon from falling into the hands of the Crusaders. The Islamic defenders feared that with Ashkelon in Christian hands, the Crusaders could cut off the road to Jerusalem and then march on the Holy City.

One Arab writer poignantly described the scene: “The people entered the town crying and clamoring. Ascalon was a town likable to the heart, with firm walls and mighty structures, which people liked to inhabit. The people of the town were deeply saddened and wailed strongly because of the town’s destruction, and because of their having to leave their homeland.”