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Latrun ( , Latrun; , al-Latrun) is a strategic hilltop in the Ayalon Valley overlooking the road to Jerusalemmarker. It is located 25 kilometers west of Jerusalem and 14 kilometers southeast of Ramlamarker.

Etymology

There are two theories regarding the origin of the name of Latrun. One is that it is a corruption of Le toron des chevaliers (the Castle of the Knights), the Crusader stronghold in the area. The other is that it is named for the good thief who was crucified by the Romans alongside Jesus (Lucas 23:40-43).

History

Biblical era

In the Hebrew Bible, the Ayalon Valley was the site of a battle in which the Israelites, led by Joshua, defeated the Amorites (Joshua 10:1-11). Centuries of Jewish sovereignty ensued. Later, Judah Maccabee established his camp here in preparation for battle with the Greeks, who had invaded Israel/Judea and were camped in Emmausmarker. As described in the Book of Maccabees, the Greeks found the Jewish camp empty, and were then surprised by an attack by Judah's forces appearing suddenly in the valley. The ensuing battle provided the Jewish forces with the first major victory in the rebellion against Greek domination, ultimately leading to more than a century of renewed Jewish independence under the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty.

Crusader era

Remains of the Crusader castle in Latrun
Little remains of the castle, which was held by the Templars by 1187. The main tower was later surrounded with a rectangular enclosure with vaulted chambers. This in turn was enclosed by an outer court, of which one tower survives.

Ottoman rule

In 1890, a monastery was established at Latrun by Frenchmarker monks of the Trappist order. The monks established a vineyard and today produce a variety of wines. During World War I, the monks were expelled by the Ottoman Turks and the monastery was destroyed. The monks returned in 1927 and built the current building. The clock tower of the church dates from 1954.Walid Khalidi describes the small village of al-Latrun established in the late 19th century by villagers from nearby Emmausmarker.

British Mandate

Following the 1936-1939 Arab revolt, the Britishmarker authorities built a number of police forts (named Tegart forts after their designer) in various locations; Latrun was chosen due to its strategic significance, particularly its dominant position above the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem road. Many Jewish-born residents who resisted British occupation were imprisoned at Latrun and the surrounding countryside.

1948 Arab-Israeli War

The road from the coastal plain to Jerusalem was blocked after the British withdrew and handed the fort of Latrun over to the Arab Legion. The Arab Legionnaires used the fort to shell Israeli vehicles traveling on the road below, effectively imposing a military siege on Jerusalem.

On 24 May 1948, ten days after the declaration of independence of the State of Israel, the fort was assaulted by combined forces of Israel's newly-created 7th Armoured Brigade, and a battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade. Ariel Sharon, then a platoon commander, was wounded at Latrun along with many of his soldiers. The mission, code-named "Operation Ben Nun Alefmarker", was unsuccessful, sustaining heavy casualties. On 1 June 1948, a second attack on the fort codenamed Ben Nun Betmarker", also failed, although the outer defences were breached.Many of the Israeli fighters were young Holocaust survivors who had just arrived in the country and had minimal military training. The official casualty figure for both battles was 139.

To circumvent the blocked road, a makeshift camouflaged road through the seemingly impassable mountains towards Jerusalem was constructed under the command of Mickey Marcus . This bypassed the main routes overlooked by Latrun and was named the Burma Road after its emergency supply-line namesake between Kumming (China) and Lashio (Burma), improvised by the Allies in World War II. By 9 June 1948, the first supplies got through to Jerusalem, putting an end to month old Arab blockade.

On 2 August, the Truce Commission drew the attention of the Security Council to the Arabs' refusal to allow water and food supplies to reach Jerusalem. After much negotiation, it was agreed that United Nations convoys would transport supplies, but the convoys often came under sniper fire. Towards the end of August, the situation improved. The destruction of the Latrun pumping station made it impossible for water in adequate quantities to flow to Jerusalem, but the Jews built an auxiliary water pipe-line of small capacity along the "Burma Road" which provided a minimum amount of water.

After Operation Danny, Israeli forces anticipated a Jordanian counterattack possibly from Latrun but King Abdullah remained within the bounds of the tacit agreement made with the Jewish Agency and kept his troops at Latrun.

Tanks on display at Israeli Armored Corps memorial at Latrun


In the 1949 ceasefire agreement, the fort remained a salient under Jordanian control, which was in turn surrounded by a perimeter of no man's land. Under the cease-fire agreement, Jordanmarker was not to disrupt Israeli travelers using this road; in practice, constant sniper attacks led Israel to build a bypass road around the bulge.

The Arab residents of Latrun were evacuated to Imwasmarker in 1949 as a result of the war and Latrun's location at the 1949 armistice line.

Since the Six-Day War

In the Six-Day War in 1967, Latrun was captured by Israeli defense forces, and the main-road to Jerusalem was re-opened and made safe for travel. The villages of Imwasmarker, Yalomarker and Beit Nuba were razed, their residents taking refuge in the West Bank and Jordan. Canada Parkmarker was established on the land.Brynen, Rex and Roula El-Rifai. Palestinian Refugees: Challenges of Repatriation and Development. p.128 Ottawa: International Development Research Centre. ISBN 1552502317

Kirsher, Sheldon. (2007, 13 December). Canada Park – an Israeli haven for picnickers, hikers, cyclists. Canadian Jewish News.

Wood, Trish. (1991). Park with no Peace [TV documentary]. Toronto: the fifth estate

Tegart Fort was turned into a tank museum, and the Yad La-Shiryonmarker memorial for fallen soldiers of the Israeli Armored Corps was established there. The museum display includes 110 tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, such as the Merkava and T-72 tanks. Other notables in the outdoor area include a large tank successfully mounted high atop a former British tower, a collection of innovative mobile bridges constructed by the Israeli forces to win crucial battles, and a long, engraved commemoration wall bearing the names of Armored Corps soldiers killed in defense of the country. The deeply pocked outer walls of the actual fort, itself, are a reminder of the building's past wartime use by the Arab Legion. The museum site also has a large amphitheater, an auditorium, many photos, poetry, paintings and cartoons on display, as well as a synagogue. Screenings are held regularly, showing both historical film footage and more recent tributes to Israelis injured and fallen.

Landmarks

Landmarks in the Latrun area of Israel are the Trappist Monastery and Mini Israelmarker, a park with scale models of historic buildings around Israel. Neve Shalommarker (Oasis of Peace) is a joint Jewish-Arab community founded on a hilltop south of Latrun. The International Center for the Study of Bird Migration is located in Latrun.

See also



References



Bibliography

  • Morris, Benny (2004): The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press ISBN 0521009677
  • Latrun (2002, ISBN 965-7130-10-7) is a novel by Ram Oren describing the two Battles of Latrun and the events surrounding them.


External links




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