This tour is in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and can take an entire day, half a day or a couple of hours, so it is suitable as a ‘mini-tour’ for those with little time to spare. It gives the visitor an added insight into the fierce battles for the possession of Jerusalem
when it was under siege and cut off from the rest of the country before and during independence.
We start our tour with a visit to the Paratroopers’ Memorial (“Lighter than Eagles, Braver than Lions”) and then visit a nearby moshav to see the biggest collection of cacti in Israel, in their resplendent spring flowering.
We then head east to Hulda Forest, where we can park the car and take a short hike (or ride bicycles if arranged in advance).
Hulda was established in 1905, one of the first lands to be purchased by KKL, and a farm for training workers was founded next to Herzl’s House. (The house of Benjamin Zeev Herzl, who prophesied that there would be a Jewish homeland in Israel, is currently undergoing renovations, and there is an exhibition of artefacts and a movie).
The fighting of 1929 claimed the lives of Efraim Czisik an his sister Sara, and there is a memorial to them and other fallen fighters, created by the sculptress Batya Lishansky. In 1931 a new group of settlers started rebuilding the site, and the farm and forest served as a training base for the Haganah and a base for the fighters in one of the most fierce battles of the period – over the road to Jerusalem. These fighters also managed to lay the beginning of a water line to the besieged city. Hulda was eventually moved to a different site.
The sites in the area are continually being updated, and we can visit several sites from the attempts to break the siege on Jerusalem, such as Bab el Wad (the Gate to the Valley), where the rusted remains of military vehicles of the period were left as a reminder, and Latroun, which was a Jordanian outpost and the scene of several bloody battles.
We then turn east to the ancient Jewish settlement of Kfar Uriah. Founded in 1912, it was destroyed during the War of Independence and resettled only after the war. We can see the yard of the Ben-Zion settlers, among them such mythological figures as A.D. Gordon and and Yitzhak Tabenkin.
And on in a northeasterly direction, to Mitzpe Harel (Rabin Park), the base of the famed Harel Brigade, whose fighters managed to find their way from Jerusalem, which was completely cut off during the 1948 war, past the Jordanian legionnaires and down to the plain and to Hulda. The path they took was later to become the legendary “Burma Way”, through which they managed to smuggle arms and supplies to the beleaguered city.
Stopping for a view of the Latroun monastery and police station (and if you like, a relaxing pause at the Bedouin tent nearby), we make our way by car and on foot in the footsteps of the trailblazers of the Burma Way. Travelling through the shady forest, we stop at the spot where fighters from the Palmah-Harel Brigade met two jeeps travelling towards Jerusalem on the night of the 28 May 1948, the day the way to Jerusalem was forged.
Depending on the time available, we can stop at several observation points: Latroun,
the Burma Way and Bab el Wad observation points, where we can learn more about the battles and heroes of the period. We can then go on to the “Hill of Figs” where the trailblazers toiled to bring up supplies and arms, with the help of jeeps, mules and camels, and also on the backs of hundreds of volunteers. There are several memorials to various military units, including the Mahal – the Overseas Volunteers’ Unit, whose fighters battled alongside their Israeli brothers.
This tour provides some of the modern history of our fascinating country, stories from which have already become legends.