Remembering and commemorating

Numerous sites around Jerusalem commemorate the battles of the Six-Day War, which reunited a long-divided capital. 182 Israeli soldiers died during the conquest.

b&w idf tank 1967 298 88 (photo credit: IDF)
b&w idf tank 1967 298 88
(photo credit: IDF)
"Within moments of conquering the site, we piled together some rocks and stuck a flag in the ground. It's an emotional act; when you've just seen your friends fall in war, you feel the need to honor their memory, to make it mean something," says Jerusalemite Yaakov Barnea, who served in the Paratroopers Brigade during the Six Day War. From June 5-7, 1967, the Paratroopers Brigade, together with the Jerusalem and Harel brigades, and backed by an artillery regiment, a command armored regiment and the air force, broke the Jordanian control over the Old City and parts of northern Jerusalem, including the Police Academy and Ammunition Hill. After 19 years as a divided city, the capital was reunited. During the three days of war, 6,000 shells fell on Jewish Jerusalem, 900 buildings were damaged and 20 civilians and 182 soldiers were killed. Casualties on the Jordanian side were much heavier, approaching several hundred soldiers and civilians. The war broke out on the morning of June 5, when Jordanian forces occupied Government House and shelled the Israeli (western) part of the city. The Jerusalem Brigade repressed the Jordanian assault on southern Jerusalem and captured the Armon Hanatziv-Bell Outpost area, while cutting off the East Jerusalem-Bethlehem road. The monuments at Ramat Rahel, Armon Hanatziv and Abu Tor testify to these preliminary battles. As the Jerusalem Brigade operated in the southern part of the city, the Harel and Paratrooper brigades encircled the capital from the north. The Harel Brigade pushed to the mountainous area northwest of Jerusalem, in the direction of Samuel's tomb, cutting off the Jerusalem-Ramallah road, and linking Mount Scopus with the rest of the city. After breaching the line of demarcation (Urban Line) in the Nahalat Shimon area and completing the encirclement of the city in the battle at Ammunition Hill, the Paratrooper Brigade entered the Old City via Lion's Gate, and captured the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Several monuments mark various points in these operations. Impromptu memorials were erected by surviving soldiers at various battle sites, including the Bell Outpost area by Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, overlooking Tsur Baher; near the UN observers headquarters at the entrance to Armon Hanatziv; Dreyfus Park, at the entrance to Abu Tor; the northeast corner of the Old City walls, near Rockefeller Museum; Nablus Road, at the entrance to Wadi Joz; and Ammunition Hill. In time, and at the initiative of the grieving families and comrades-in-arms of the fallen soldiers, the makeshift monuments were upgraded and inaugurated. The monuments, says Professor Maoz Azariyah from Haifa University, commemorate the heroism of the living and honor the courage and memory of the dead. But even more important, these memorials, part of our urban landscape, are the means through which we, as individuals, participate in and perpetuate our collective memories throughout the generations. Perhaps most well known are the memorial site and museum at Ammunition Hill, which was declared a national memorial site in 1987. While Ammunition Hill is the official host of the Jerusalem Day ceremony each year, other lesser-known memorials also stand in testament to the fight for Jerusalem. Ammunition Hill Israel's victory at Ammunition Hill and the Police Academy grounds laid the groundwork for connecting with Mount Scopus and capturing the Old City. Thirty-seven paratroopers fell in the battle, 21 of them on the hill itself. The Jordanian army lost 71 soldiers. In addition to preserving some of the site's scenes of combat, including the winding two-meter-high trenches and scattered bunkers, the memorial pays homage to the war for Jerusalem as a whole. The museum displays photos and the standards of the three brigades that fought, accompanied by descriptions of the actions taken by the forces to liberate Jerusalem. A golden wall bearing the name of each of the 182 soldiers who fell in combat parallels the 182 olive trees that were planted in their memory atop the hill. The Bell Outpost The Bell Outpost memorial sits at the eastern edge of the Park of Olives. A two-pronged, oblong, bottleneck metal sculpture extends from the remnant of a bunker. Imprinted onto one of the prongs are the names of the six Israeli soldiers who fell at this position. The structure is tarnishing, and the bunkers around it are overgrown with weeds and thorn bushes. A few feet away, a wooden sign erected by the Jewish National Fund and the IDF in 1987 describes the battle that took place at this site. Armon Hanatziv The memorial in Armon Hanatziv is well-kept, but inconspicuous. It is surrounded by pine trees, atop a gradient at the corner of Raziel and Alar streets. Beside a bench facing the Haas Promenade, a monolith is set into a heap of porous rocks. Inscribed into the slab are the Jerusalem Brigade insignia and the names of the nine Israeli soldiers killed at this post. A wreath of shriveled sunflowers from the nearby Seligsberg School and a bouquet of withered wildflowers from the Hamahanot Haolim youth movement lie on the rocks. To the right of the marker, a cobbled path leads to three placards, which describe the battle (in Hebrew and English) over south Jerusalem. Abu Tor Prior to the conquest of Abu Tor, the neighborhood was divided (since 1948) by a cease-fire line consisting of a heavy, tall fence. Attacking from the southern edge of the neighborhood and working north, the Jerusalem Brigade, under constant threat of sniper fire, overtook the Jordanian positions. Fifty-four Israeli soldiers were wounded and 17 killed, including the commander, Col. Michael Peikas. The capture of Abu Tor added to the encirclement of the Old City. The memorial to this battle stands out against the lush greenery of Dreyfus Park, on Rehov Hamefaked, in front of a Department of Social Affairs building. The marker, flanked by white rose bushes, mimics the one in Armon Hanatziv, and is engraved with the Jerusalem Brigade emblem and the names of the 17 fallen soldiers. Wadi Joz A few hundred feet away from the American Colony Hotel, a well-groomed green oasis perches between a dilapidated, makeshift residential building and the entrance to the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood. Another monolith, this one bearing the Paratroopers Brigade emblem, lauds the 11 soldiers of Squadron 71 who fell in the conquest of Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi Joz. In 1985 a memorial wall was added in recognition of the squadron members who fell in later wars.