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Deniz Bensason

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Jerusalem Trail Blog:

Day 2: From the the Chords Bridge to Ammunition Hill. (Part 2 - From Ma’alot Dafna to Ammuntion Hill)

History Pages on the Lawn - Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem - © Deniz Bensason

"History Pages on the Lawn" - Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem

Deniz Bensason - Jerusalem Trail

Deniz Bensason
Jerusalem Trail

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Start point:The Chords Bridge

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Finish Point: Ammunition Hill

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Section Length: approximately 8 Km

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Elevation

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      Starting point: 800 m

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      End point: 850 m

      Lowest point: 800 m

Trail sign: Blue

Map of Day 2. Jerusalem Trail

Map of Day 2. Jerusalem Trail

Section Map

For reasons best understood by Google, unlike the Israel Trail, Google has not as yet marked the Jerusalem Trail on its maps.

However, when Google disappoints there are other alternatives. (Click on the + sign in the picture to expand the map).

For the record…

Just like in the Israel Trail blog, this is not intended as another “From A to B” blog about the Jerusalem Trail, but rather, an opportunity for me to share with you, my readers, a personal glimpse at some of the sites, along with my perspective and thoughts about the route.

The Jerusalem Trail - Day Two Part 2:

Ma’alot Dafna

Jerusalem Trail: Ma’alot Dafna, Jerusalem - © Deniz Bensason

Ma’alot Dafna, Jerusalem

Leaving the older section of the city, we head to Ma’alot Dafna, built in 1972 as one of the “dead-bolt-lock neighborhoods – שכונות הבריח“ (The others are Ramat Eshkol, Givat HaMivtar, and French Hill). This term refers to the objective of these neighborhoods: to form a continuum which would “lock” Mount Scopus to Jewish Jerusalem, thereby preventing it from being cut off from the rest of Jerusalem again.

Houses in Ma’alot Dafna consist mainly of four-story apartment buildings that incorporate traditional architectural elements of Jerusalem’s old and new city. The buildings are constructed in large rectangular blocks built to form a circle that encompasses a huge central courtyard. The courtyard is a “private zone,” hidden from the view of outsiders and free of vehicular traffic. Cars are parked in various car lots around the buildings’ outer circumference. The neighborhood’s unique construction won an international award for urban planning.

Nowadays, Ma’alot Dafna is a quiet neighborhood with a large Anglo population mainly associated with the neighborhood’s two large ultra-orthodox yeshivas. In the early 20th century, however, it was a bare, layered hill.

In the early 1930s, the British chose the site for the construction of the School for Officers (in Hebrew, Beit Sefer l’Shotrim-literally, School for Policemen). The school served as a police academy which trained men to serve in the British mandatory police force. The British later dug a fortified trench connecting the academy to its ammunition depot, which was built on a hilltop to the west. Not surprisingly, the hill was dubbed “Ammuntion Hill” (in Hebrew, Givat haTachmoshet).

Ammuntion Hill

The school overlooked the road leading through the Arab Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to Hadassa Hospital and the Hebrew University, both of which were located on Mount Scopus. Therefore, during the War of Independence, the academy—and the hilltop it occupied—was considered one of the sites vital to the security of Jewish Jerusalem and slated for takeover in the northern campaign of Jerusalem’s Operation Pitchfork.

Although the Irgun seized the academy without encountering any enemy forces, Jordan’s Arab Legion arrived several days later and pitched a fierce battle for control of the site. With their superior artillery and numbers, the legion forces overpowered the Irgun fighters, and the compound fell into Jordanian hands. The Jordanians retained their position for the next 19 years, and the academy’s Ammunition Hill became one of three fortified Jordanian positions (the others being Givat haMivtar and French Hill) effectively separating Mount Scopus from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Trail:United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Ammunition Hill

After its creation in December 1949, the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) opened offices in the part of the police academy compound not used to house Arab Legion troops. The agency is still situated in the same location.

Over the years, the Jordanians turned Ammunition Hill into a huge, well-fortified post, with several lines of deep trenches staggered up the hill. Each trench provided a lookout for the trench below it and for the Jewish neighborhoods further down.

Sniper attacks from the Arab Legion on residents in the neighborhoods along the seam between East and West Jerusalem were an almost daily occurrence. Like in Musrara, only those who could not afford to live elsewhere stayed in those areas.

Israeli intelligence had predicted that King Hussein of Jordan would not join Egypt and Syria in an attack on Israel. Nonetheless, with the outbreak of war, the Jordanians began firing mortar shells at the Israeli neighborhoods near their posts. Concerned about the Israeli civilians in those neighborhoods and about the fate of the Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus, the government called upon the army to do whatever was necessary to bring an end to these attacks and open the road to Mount Scopus.

Ammuntion Hill - June 6, 1967

That same night, on June 6, 1967, Israeli paratroopers under the command of Motta (Mordechai) Gur set out from the border neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi. After cutting through several dozen meters of barbed wire barricades and clearing the minefield in the rugged no-man’s-land that later became Ma’alot Dafna, they ascended the hill to capture the Jordanian position on Ammunition Hill. Erroneous information led the troops to believe that there were about 50 Jordanian soldiers stationed there when the actual number was closer to 150. The battle was one of the fiercest of the Six Day War.

Although the Israeli force conquered the position, some 90 paratroopers were wounded and 36 killed, mostly in hand-to-hand combat in the advance from one trench to another. Only 7 emerged unscathed. However, the bloody victory opened the road to the Old City and led to the reunification of Jerusalem.

Ma’alot Dafna’s name (literally “Laurel Ascent”) pays tribute to the events of that day. Ma’alot (Ascent) refers not only to the physical feature of the hill, but also to the struggle to ascend it under the adverse circumstances of the battle. Dafna (Laurel), used since ancient times to symbolize victory, honors the eventual success of the Israeli paratroopers’ endeavor.

Ammuntion Hill - “Givat HaTachmoshet”

The battle is also commemorated in a powerful song called simply “Givat HaTachmoshet,” which came out several months after the war .The lyrics incorporate narratives taken from an interview of several soldiers who participated in the battle. These monologues added considerable impact to the song, which has become an irrevocable part of Israeli culture.




Ammunition Hill ("Giv'at Ha'Takhmoshet")

גבעת התחמושת


Originally performed by The Central Command Variety Ensemble
Lyrics: Yoram Taharlev
Music: Yair Rosenblum
Year Released: 1968

במקור מבוצע על ידי: להקת פיקוד מרכז
מילים: יורם טהרלב
לחן: יאיר רוזנבלום
תאריך הוצאה: 1968


"It was then the morning of the second day of the war in Jerusalem. The horizon paled in the east. We were at the climax of the battle on Ammunition Hill. We'd been fighting there for three hours. A fierce battle was under way. Fatal. The Jordanians fought stubbornly. It was a position fortified in an exceptional manner. At a certain point in the fight, only four soldiers remained next to me. We had gone up there with a force of two platoons. I didn't know where the others were because the connection with Dudik, the platoon commander, was cut off already at the beginning of the battle. At that moment I thought that everyone had been killed."

"היה אז בוקר היום השני למלחמה בירושלים. האופק החוויר במזרח. היינו בעיצומו של הקרב על גבעת התחמושת. לחמנו שם זה שלוש שעות. התנהל קרב עקשני. קטלני. הירדנים נלחמו בעקשנות. זה היה יעד מבוצר בצורה בלתי רגילה. בשלב מסויים של המלחמה נשארו לידי ארבעה חיילים בלבד. עלינו לשם בכוח של שתי פלוגות. לא ידעתי היכן האחרים כיוון שהקשר עם דודיק המ"פ ניתק עוד בתחילת הקרב. באותו רגע חשבתי שכולם נהרגו."

At two, two-thirty
We entered through the stony terrain
To the field of fire and mines
Of Ammunition Hill.

בשתיים, שתיים ושלושים,
נכנסנו דרך הטרשים
לשדה האש והמוקשים
של גבעת התחמושת.

Against fortified bunkers
And 120mm mortars
A hundred and some boys
Of Ammunition Hill.

מול בונקרים מבוצרים
ומרגמות מאה עשרים
מאה וכמה בחורים
על גבעת התחמושת.

The pillar of dawn had not yet risen,
Half a platoon lay in blood,
But we were already there, at least,
On Ammunition Hill.

עמוד השחר עוד לא קם
חצי פלוגה שכבה בדם
אך אנו כבר היינו שם
בגבעת התחמושת.

Among the walls and the mines
We left only the medics,
And we ran ahead, senselessly,
Towards Ammunition Hill.

בין הגדרות והמוקשים
השארנו רק את החובשים
ורצנו אבודי חושים
אל גבעת התחמושת.

"At that same moment, a grenade was thrown from outside. Miraculously, we weren't hit. I was afraid the Jordanians would throw more grenades. Someone had to run from above and provide cover. I didn't have time to ask for a volunteer. I sent Eitan. Eitan didn't hesitate for a moment. He climbed up and began to fire his machine gun. Sometimes he would overtake me and I'd have to yell to him to remain in line with me. That's how we crossed some 30 meters. Eitan would cover from above and we would clear the bunkers from within, until he was hit and fell inside."

"באותו רגע נזרק רימון מבחוץ. בנס לא נפגענו. חששתי שהירדנים יזרקו רימונים נוספים. מישהו היה צריך לרוץ מלמעלה ולהשגיח. לא היה לי זמן לשאול מי מתנדב. שלחתי את איתן. איתן לא היסס לרגע. עלה למעלה והתחיל להפעיל את המקלעון. לפעמים היה עובר אותי והייתי צריך לצעוק לו שיישאר בקו שלי. ככה עברנו איזה שלושים מטר. איתן היה מחפה מלמעלה ואנחנו טיהרנו את הבונקרים מבפנים, עד שנפגע ונפל פנימה."

We went down into the trenches,
Into the nooks and ditches,
And towards the death in the tunnels
Of Ammunition Hill

ירדנו אל התעלות
אל הכוכים והמסילות
ואל המוות במחילות
של גבעת התחמושת.

And no one questioned where we were headed.
Whoever went first fell.
One needed lots of luck
On Ammunition Hill

ואיש אי אנה לא שאל
מי שהלך ראשון נפל
צריך היה הרבה מזל
על גבעת התחמושת.

Whoever fell was dragged to the rear
So as not to obstruct the way forward
Until the next in line fell
On Ammunition Hill

מי שנפל נסחב אחור
שלא יפריע לעבור
עד שנפל הבא בתור
על גבעת התחמושת.

Perhaps we were lions,
But whoever still wanted to live
Should not have been
On Ammunition Hill

אולי היינו אריות
אך מי שעוד רצה לחיות
אסור היה לו להיות
על גבעת התחמושת.

"We decided to try blowing up their bunker with a bazooka. The bazooka made a few scratches in the concrete. We decided to try with explosives. I waited above them until the guy came back with the explosives. He threw bundle after bundle, and I lay them one by one at the entrance of their bunker. They had their own system: first they threw a grenade, then they fired a volley, then they rested. So between the volley and the [next] grenade, I would approach the entrance to their bunker and place the explosives. I triggered the explosives and moved away as far as I could. I had four meters in which to maneuver, because there were [Arab] Legionnaires behind me as well. I don't know why I received a military citation; all I wanted was to get home safely."

"החלטנו לנסות לפוצץ את הבונקר שלהם בבזוקה. הבזוקה עשתה כמה שריטות לבטון. החלטנו לנסות בחומר נפץ. חיכיתי מעליהם עד שחזר הבחור עם חומר הנפץ. הוא היה זורק לי חבילות-חבילות, ואני הייתי מניח את החבילות אחת אחת בפתח הבונקר שלהם. להם היתה שיטה: קודם זרקו רימון, אחר כך ירו צרור, אחר כך נחו. אז בין צרור לרימון, הייתי ניגש לפתח הבונקר שלהם ושם את חומר הנפץ. הפעלתי את חומר הנפץ והתרחקתי כמה שיכולתי. היו לי ארבעה מטר לתמרן, כי גם מאחורי היו ליגיונרים. אני לא יודע למה קיבלתי צל"ש. בסך הכל רציתי להגיע הביתה בשלום."

At seven, seven-twenty,
At the police school
Gathered all those who remained
From Ammunition Hill.

בשבע, שבע ועשרים
אל בית הספר לשוטרים
אספו את כל הנשארים
מגבעת התחמושת.

Smoke rose from the hill,
The sun rose higher in the east.
We returned to the city, seven,
From Ammunition Hill.

עשן עלה מן הגבעה
השמש במזרח גבהה
חזרנו אל העיר שבעה
מגבעת התחמושת.

We returned to the city, seven.
Smoke rose from the hill,
The sun rose higher in the east
On Ammunition Hill,

חזרנו אל העיר שבעה
עשן עלה מן הגבעה
השמש במזרח גבהה
על גבעת התחמושת.

On fortified bunkers
And on our brothers, men
Who remained there aged 20,
On Ammunition Hill.

על בונקרים מבוצרים
ועל אחינו הגברים
שנשארו שם בני עשרים
על גבעת התחמושת.


After the Six Day War, Ammunition Hill was slated for development as one of the “dead-bolt lock neighborhoods.” When word of the plan leaked out, parents of soldiers who had lost their lives on the battlefield there camped out on the site in protest. It is through the intervention of these bereaved parents that the site was turned into a memorial not just for their sons, but for the 183 soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Trail: Reflections on Ammunition Hill - © Deniz Bensason

Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site

Nowadays, the hike up to the top of the hill is easy and uneventful. At Shragai Street, named for Jerusalem’s first elected mayor, Zalman Shragai, the UN flag flutters in the air to our right, above the UNWRA Jerusalem headquarters located in the compound of the former School for Officers. On the other side of the asphalt, directly across from it, is the Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site.

Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site

In addition to serving as a museum and national memorial site, Ammunition Hill is now Jerusalem’s main induction center for new army recruits. On the lawn in front of the modest edifice are some sculptures, including the “Rock of the Recruits,” which wishes the new recruits success and is often rubbed for luck before entering the recruitment center.

Another sculpture is constructed from slanted beams that rise to form a Magen David at the top. A triangular copper plaque depicting two famous Jewish figures is hidden on the inner side of each of the six beams making the hexagram. One plaque depicts Moses and King David, another Judah Maccabee and Yitzhak Rabin, a third Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, and so on. There is no time to visit the museum dedicated to the battle for Jerusalem during the Six Day War and to the soldiers who participated in the campaign, or to see the section honoring Jewish soldiers from different times and countries. A few quick snaps of the entrance and the sculptures on the front lawn, and it’s time to leave.

  • Jerusalem Trail: Rock of the Recruits (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site, Jerusalem sculptures, good luck) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Rock of the Recruits (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site, from the rear) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: 3D Magen David (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inscription inside the hexagram (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site)  - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inside the 3D Hexagram - Moses and King David (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inside the 3D Hexagram - Judah Maccabee and Yitzhak Rabin (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inside the 3D Hexagram - Maimonides and Baruch Spinoza (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inside the 3D Hexagram - Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inside the 3D Hexagram - David Ben-Gurion and Theodor Herzl (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: Inside the 3D Hexagram - Marc Chagall and Arthur Rubinstein (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason
  • Jerusalem Trail: The 3D Hexagram  (Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site) - © Deniz Bensason

   

LINK TO PART 1


Comments

Re: 3D Hexagram

Do you know the name of the sculptor who constructed the Magen David?

 

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