“There could be a Jerusalem without the state of Israel, but there could not be the state of Israel without Jerusalem”
According to David Ben Gurion, the first president of Israel, underscoring the historical and strategic significance that Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel as it has been since the times of King David.
Latrun – The “Ways to Jerusalem”
In the area of Latrun, the “Ways to Jerusalem” is an exhilarating one day jeep tour along the infamous Burma Road a makeshift bypass route created by Israeli forces in May 1948 in response to the Jordanian forces siege of this area and blockade of all movement of supplies into and out of Jerusalem via the existing Route 1. This created a humanitarian crisis for the city’s Jewish population and a threat to their continued existence.
Getting Started on our Journey
Lisa and I spent the day with our families.
Atar was our jeep driver and guide. Our day started around 9:00 A.M., meeting Atar at a gas station in Latrun ; the only one at the intersection of RT 3 and route 424. Originally Latrun (the name originating from the French language “Le toron des chevaliers” (the tower of the nights), was a British Police Station (the building stands there to this day), then it was occupied by Jordanian forces from 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967.Today the area is home to the Israel Armored Corps Museum.
From our starting point, we headed up through winding back roads only accessible with four wheel drive vehicles passing a cooperative Jewish Muslim village called Neve Shalom (literally meaning Oasis of Peace). This unique village has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize four times because it demonstrates how Jews and Arabs can live side by side in peace.
And the Spectacular Views
Then on to an observation point with a breathtaking view of the Ayalon Valley, including the Burma Road and Latrun junction. From this vantage point, it was clear how the Burma Road was hidden from the view and guns of the Jordanian army and successfully allowed passage to and from Jerusalem. Strategically, this was critical to the survival of the Jewish presence in the country’s capital.
The Burma Road
From there, we continued down the winding Burma Road. Atar explained to us the history of the road that it was initially discovered by hikers, then jeeps. With further excavation, eventually larger heavier supply trucks could pass. This was a crucial as the road was the only passage to Jerusalem for only a few weeks in June 1948. We stopped at the Sha’ar Hagay observatory before climbing the Jeep ascent to Outpost 21. Again our knowledgeable guide told us the story of how Beit Mahsir (now Bet Meir) was conquered.
Break Time (Hafsakah in Hebrew)
Break Time (Hafsaka in Hebrew): Atar made some special homemade tea for us using only organic herbs from his home garden along with some tasty waffle cookies. As we sat there, enjoying our snack, we enjoyed the beautiful view of the Road 1 (the current road to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea).
Kisalon Stream and the History of Israel Post Independance
The last leg of our trip was a ride on a relatively smooth gravel path over Nahal Kisalon (Kisalon stream), then back to our cars via Road 1. Our trip was considered half day ending around 2:30 in the afternoon with a concentration on more recent history (1948 forward). There is also a full day version of this trip that includes older routes leading to Jerusalem from Roman times, the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks and the Ottoman Empire.
A Great Experience you don’t want to Miss
Our guide was quite knowledgeable about the area, his explanations were very interesting and his English is very excellent. He is a licensed tour guide with a first degree in Marine Sciences and a second degree in Environmental studies. Additionally, he owns and operates his own jeeps (see more at Israeliwild).