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Ammunition hill

In the early thirties of the 20th century, during the mandate era, the British built the "School for Officers" in north Jerusalem (currently the Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood). The ammunition, which was stored in the nearby hill, gave it its name- "Ammunition Hill". During the War of Independence, 19th of May 1948, the Jordanians conquered parts of North Jerusalem, including the School for Officers and Ammunition Hill. As a result of the war, Jerusalem was divided into two cities- Jordanian and Israeli- for 19 years. Separating the two cities was a border called the municipal borderline, which ran from Ammunition Hill in north Jerusalem until the "Mar Elias" monastery in south Jerusalem. Barbed wire fences were put up along the borderline, mines were hidden there and military posts were built. The old city was left in Jordanian territory; Mount Scopus became an Israeli enclave and 120 soldiers dressed up as police officers guarded it, once every two weeks others replaced half of the soldiers by the "Bi-weekly convoy". In order to prevent Israel from joining with the Mount Scopus enclave and disconnecting the eastern Jerusalem-Ramallah road, the Jordanians built three fortified posts: the School for Officers' range- "Ammunition hill" post, the "Mivtar Hill" post and the "French Hill" post. 150 Jordanian soldiers from the Al-Husain battalion defended the School for Officers- Ammunition Hill post.

 

On the morning of the 5th of June 1967, the Six Day war broke out. Israel's political attempts to avoid the war with Jordan failed. Husain, the king of Jordan, ordered his army to open fire along the municipal borderline. The Central Command in Jerusalem and its surroundings had possession of three brigades, which were assisted by an artillery battalion, a tank battalion and the air-force.

 

The Jerusalem reserve Brigade (16) halted a Jordanian attack on south Jerusalem and conquered the Governor's Palace and the "Bell Post", while disconnecting the Eastern Jerusalem-Beit Lehem road. The Harel reserve Brigade (10) operated from the northwestern part of the city. The Paratroopers reserve Brigade (55) was originally supposed to operate on the Egyptian front, but because the IDF forces were advancing quickly on this front, the paratroopers were directed to Jerusalem at the last minute. The Brigade's (55)  mission was to breach the municipal borderline in north Jerusalem in order to create a basis for joining with Mount Scopus and liberating the Old City. On the eve of June 5th 1967, battalions 71 and 28 breached the municipal borderline in the Simon Estate region. Battalion 66 breached the municipal borderline opposite the School for Officers; on Ammunition Hill a bloody battle was held. On the morning of June 7th, the IDF soldiers conquered the Old City. Motte Gur, Brigade commander of the paratroopers, reported: "Temple Mount is in our hands!"- The divided city was reunited.

 

When the battles of the Six-Day war subsided, there was an urge to establish the Jewish stronghold in the united city. As a first step, the Israeli government decided to found a neighborhood on the Hill of Open Rocky Ground, close to the obsolete municipal borderline, in northeastern Jerusalem. A few days after the city was liberated, bulldozers started to eat away at the "Mivtar Hill" in order to prepare it for construction of a housing complex. The plan was to speedily turn Ammunition Hill, the battlefield out of which the IDF broke through to the city, into a neighborhood. When Yossi Yaffe (Za"l), commander of battalion 66 of the Paratroopers Brigade, discovered that Ammunition Hill was to be demolished, he turned to Yitzchak Feniger, the father of Ofer Feniger who was the last soldier killed on the Hill, and asked for his help to prevent the demolition. Feniger rushed to alert a number of bereaved parents and together the team planned daily and nightly shifts on Ammunition Hill. In the trenches, one could still see the fresh impression of the war. The intervention of the bereaved parents and their firm demand to keep the battlefield as is- is what brought around the plan to turn it into a memorial site. The feelings of the parents were understood. Feniger, who was the first CEO, proposed to found a site that would perpetuate three things:

1.  The great event in the nation's life and the liberation of Jerusalem by the IDF brigades who fought in the battles.

2. The memory of the 182 heroic soldiers who fell for the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

3.  The cultural, artistic, and literary inheritance of those who left us their estate and did not have the time to finish it.

 

The committee labored over the plan for seven years. A special committee of people, who were connected to the liberation during the Six Day War, was nominated to found the site. The first chairman was the Major-General of Central Command Uzi Narkiss (za"l). A memorial monument was situated at the top of the hill, with the names of the fallen soldiers of battalion 66 engraved on it.

 

Due to the importance of the Hill, it was decided to announce it as a central site for all the brigades who participated in the battle for the liberation of Jerusalem. In 1972, on the fifth annual Remembrance Day for the liberation of the city, 182 olive trees were planted on the hill in memory of the fallen soldiers. In 1975, on the eighth annual Remembrance Day for the liberation, the site was inaugurated.

 

The site is situated opposite the hill which crosses between the pag"i houses to the Hebrew University buildings. The atmosphere has changed since the war. The sound of Pine trees swaying in the cool breeze replace the sounds of bombings and yelling. The battlefield is covered with green grass, and instead of fighting soldiers there are children playing. The trenches and battle areas have become playgrounds and study places. From the top of the hill, one can see the "New Jerusalem". Close by, across the road, are the homes of Ramat Eshkol and past that, the buildings of the Ramot neighborhood and Nebi-Samuel. On the way leading to Nablus are the houses of the French Hill and the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. At the center of the Hill stands the museum that tells the tale of the series of battles in Jerusalem.

 

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