Rabin Park - Honoring Yitzhak Rabin & Independence Day

See the anicent and modern history of the Land of Israel amidst the breathtaking forested hills near Jerusalem in Yitzhak Rabin Park.



Geographic location: Jerusalem, Judean highlands and surroundings

Identity Card



Photo: Yossi Zamir


Yitzhak Rabin Park covers an area of around 15,000 dunam (approx 3,750 acres) in the Shaar HaGai (“Valley Gate”) area from Nahshon and Bekoa in the west to the Jerusalem Breakthrough Memorial near the Shoresh Interchange in the east. The park includes areas of varied woodland together with historical and archeological sites that testify to continuous Jewish settlement in the area since Biblical times. KKL-JNF has memorialized Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the area where he fought in the War of Independence that preceded the founding of the State. The park includes scenic lookouts and recreation areas that can be used all year round, and its dirt roads are suitable for private vehicles.

Special sites in the Park: Shluhat Mishlatim (“Command Post Ridge”), the Burma Road.

Facilities: Picinic area, Lookout, Marked path, Archeological or Historic site, Active Recreation, Memorial.

Additional sites in the area: Moshav Kfar Uriah, Shaar HaGai, Moshav Mesilat Zion, the Masrek Nature Reserve, Mitzpe Eshtaol. 

How to get there: There are a number of access points to Rabin Park. The following are the principal entrances:

1. The entrance to Mitzpe Harel is from the highway (Route no. 44) between Nahshon Junction and Shimshon Junction, about half a kilometer after the turnoff to Kfar Uriah (when approaching from the direction of Nahshon Junction). Turn left (northwards) near the Mekorot (Israel National Water) site. Suitable for all types of vehicle.

2. From the highway (Route no. 38) between Shaar HaGai and Shimshon Junction, between the Shaar HaGai Interchange and Mesilat Zion. Turn west about a kilometer after the Shaar HaGai Interchange (between kilometer markers 72 and 82). Suitable for all types of vehicle.

3. To the Jeep Road: An all-terrain vehicle or a particularly powerful one is necessary to negotiate the climb on the way uphill. From the highway (Route no. 38) between Shaar HaGai and Shimshon Junction, between the Shaar HaGai Interchange and Mesilat Zion, turn eastwards towards the Nahal Memorial plaza and from there follow the Jeep Road to the Masrek Nature Reserve.  

- From the east: From below the Masrek Nature Reserve (the road from Shoresh Junction to Beit Meir) to the Mahal (“Overseas Volunteers”) Recreation Area.  
Suitable for all vehicles only when traveling downhill (from the Masrek).  
Conditions on the road may change after rain.
 
4. To Command Post Ridge (Shluhat Mishlatim) and the Diefenbaker Trail: Access is from Route no. 1 via the Shoresh Interchange and the Jerusalem Breakthrough Recreation Area (Henion HaPortzim). Finishes up in Shaar HaGai.

5. Mitzpe Eshtaol: Access is from the KKL-JNF nursery off the highway between Shimshon Junction and Nahshon Junction (Route no. 44), approx 0.7 kilometers to the northwest of Shimshon Junction. Turn in at the entrance to the KKL-JNF nursery. The route is marked in black.

6. To the Latrun Scenic Lookout: Accessed from the highway between Nahshon Junction and Latrun (Route no. 3), via the entrance to Neveh Shalom. The route is marked in black.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Rabin Park was restored and developed thanks to contributions
from Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, including Canada,
Israel, and Mexico.
 

About the Park


Photo: Hava Brown

The park is extensive, consisting mainly of forests planted by KKL-JNF, and it gives the visitor an opportunity to observe a variety of different geographical segments and historical sites that represent the history of the Land of Israel. While most of the park is located in the Judean Plain around the Burma Road, a part of it also lies in the Judean Hills.

Shaar HaGai, as its name implies (it translates into English as “the Gateway to the Valley”), links the different types of landscape represented in the park. The main park road follows the Burma Road, the Jeep Road, Convoy Ridge (Shluhat Sheyarot) and Command Post Ridge (Shluhat Mishlatim), which were all sites of fierce battles for control of the road to Jerusalem during Israel’s War of Independence. It was here that forces from the Palmach’s Harel Brigade, commanded by Yitzhak Rabin, together with other units, broke through and opened the road to Jerusalem.
  
The park includes areas of woodland where a variety of wild flowers bloom in the winter and spring, terraces bearing traces of ancient agriculture and sites of historical and archeological interest that provide evidence of continual Jewish settlement since Biblical times. The remains of a Roman road, Byzantine and Ottoman ruins and the remnants of comparatively recent settlement – all these form part of the varied and interesting landscape the park has to offer.
 
KKL-JNF chose to perpetuate the memory of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by means of this extensive area of parkland in the area where he fought for the establishment of the Jewish State, and it has provided the site with scenic lookouts, numerous recreation areas and dirt roads suitable for private vehicles. Visitors can use the park all year round and enjoy the profusion of wildflowers it offers in the winter months and early spring.

The Burma Road and its Sites


Photo: Tania Susskind

The Burma Road was a hastily constructed bypass created during Israel’s War of Independence in the course of the battle for Jerusalem, which was under siege at the time. This makeshift route to the capital begins in the area of Moshav Bekoa, traverses the hills of the Judean Plain and ascends the Judean Hills until it reaches Beit Meir. It was constructed in order to avoid the Latrun area, then under the control of the Jordanian army, and it takes its name from the winding mountainous road from Burma into China constructed by the allied forces during the Second World War.

In 1948 Jerusalem was a beleaguered capital. From Shaar HaGai eastwards, the forces of the Palmach’s Harel Brigade were engaged in trying to capture the Convoy Ridge and Command Post Ridge vantage points that overlooked the highway. To the west of Shaar HaGai, in the area of Latrun and Deir Ayyub (today the site of Ayalon Park), the Givati Brigade and later the 7th Brigade battled to open the road. As the Latrun area remained impassible, military scouts sought an alternative route that would enable troops and supplies to get through to Jerusalem. This was how the Burma Road route was discovered and surfaced, providing a temporary lifeline to Jerusalem.


Main visitors’ route through the park (from west to east, from Mitzpe Harel)   

There are a number of entrances to the park, as described above. We begin our tour at Mitzpe Harel, along the Burma Road. We access Mitzpe Harel from the highway between Nahshon Junction and Shimshon Junction (Route no. 44). About half a kilometer after the turnoff to Kfar Uriah we turn left (i.e., northwards) near the Mekorot (Israel National Water) site.

We enter by the red-marked forest path and continue until we come to Mitzpe Harel, where KKL-JNF has built a lofty tower used by its fire-watching staff in the summer months. Climbing to the top of the tower is dangerous, and therefore prohibited. Please do not attempt it. Near the tower is a three-dimensional map of Burma Road and its sites, and from here we can get an excellent view of the entire area. During the War of Independence, the 7th Brigade maintained a military position here in order to secure the road below. To the west of this vantage point we can see the remains of the Arab village Beit Jiz, where heavy fighting took place, as the village was occupied alternately by each side.
 


Photo: Tania Susskind

We continue eastwards along the Burma Road, which is marked in red along its entire length, both on the map and by posts along the route itself. Our next stop is Einot Susin, formerly the site of the village of Beit Susin, which was occupied on May 28th, 1948. It was the capture of this village that gave rise to the idea of finding an alternative route that would avoid Latrun and allow the 7th Brigade’s positions in the west to link up with those of the Palmach’s Harel Brigade to the east.
  
It was at this spot, on the night of May 30th, that patrol jeeps met each other after they had set out from opposite ends of the route to check whether or not it was passable. In the shade of the large palm and eucalyptus trees KKL-JNF has developed the Route Seven Recreation Area.

At the start of the War of Independence, the Arab Legion blew up the pumping station at Latrun, cutting off the main water supply to Jerusalem and leaving it without a reliable source of water. The pump house at Ein Susin forms part of the Shiloah (Siloam) pipeline that replaced the old water system; it was laid in June and July of 1948 close to the route of the Burma Road. It supplied 2,000 cubic meters of water per day, starting at wells in the Rehovot area, continuing to the Kibbutz Hulda pool and from there to Jerusalem. The station at Ein Susin served as a booster pump that thrust the water from the Rehovot wells onward toward Jerusalem. This pumping station continued to operate until 1952, and the remains of the Shiloah pipeline can be seen at the next point along the route, which is the Serpentines (see below).

We continue on our way eastward towards Maale HaTe’enim (“Fig Rise”), a steep section of road that begins about a kilometer and a half to the east of Einot Susin. The area takes its name from the fig trees planted along both sides of the road. Before the Burma Road was completed, supplies were transported along this section of track – which was in very poor condition – by jeep, mule and camel, and also on the backs of dozens of volunteer porters. On the other side of the rise the supplies were loaded on to trucks that had arrived from Jerusalem.
 
Photo: KKL-JNF Archive
From the top of Fig Rise the Burma Road continues down a steep slope known as “The Serpentines.” This winding track, which takes us down to the remains of the Siloam pipeline, is suitable for walkers and hikers. The vehicle road skirts the northern edge of the Serpentines and returns to the Burma Road close to the pipeline. This section can be combined with a brief walk, and as we make our way along on foot we shall see the remains of several meters of the Shiloah pipeline that brought water to Jerusalem by an alternative route.
     
We continue on our way to the Burma Scenic Lookout, which is located on the section of the route between the remains of the Shiloah pipeline and Ein Hila. The recreation area overlooks a section of the Burma Road, the Masrek, Beit Meir, the command posts of Mount Orna and Convoy Ridge (Rekhes Sheyarot). The scenic lookout is shaded by a large carob tree adjacent to the roadside recreation area. On the far side of the valley metal silhouettes represent a vehicle convoy from the period of the War of Independence.
 
Continuing eastwards via the recreation areas of Ein Hila and Ein Mesilla we reach Route no. 38 (the highway from Shaar HaGai to Beit Shemesh). We can turn left and head northwards along a route marked in black towards the Shaar HaGai scenic lookout at the top of Givat Hatula hill, which during the War of Independence served as a departure point for attacks on the command posts of Deir Ayyub. The top of the hill offers a commanding view of Shaar HaGai and the line where the Jerusalem Hills meet the Coastal Plain.
 
We return to the red trail and carefully make our way across Route 38, heading for the Mahal (“Overseas Volunteers”) Recreation Area, which is also the beginning of the Jeep Road. The Mahal Recreation Area contains a memorial formed from large concrete letters that spell out the acronym m-h-l (Mitnedvei Hutz LaAretz, i.e., “Overseas Volunteers”). The names of the Mahal soldiers who fell in the War of Independence are engraved upon the memorial, which was inaugurated by Yitzhak Rabin. The picnic area developed at the site by KKL-JNF is equipped with tables and faucets and is partially accessible to visitors with limited mobility.
 
Photo: KKL-JNF Archive
The Jeep Road from Shaar HaGai to Beit Meir is the continuation of the Burma Road. During the War of Independence this section was navigable only by jeep until hundreds of volunteers from Jerusalem paved it, at the cost of immense physical labor, to allow the passage of supply vehicles. The road is some four kilometers in length and rises for 300 meters amid an orchard-filled landscape. Today the ascent to Beit Meir is suitable only for vehicles equipped with a four-wheel drive.

The Convoy Ridge (Shluhat Sheyarot) Road departs from the upper section of the Jeep Road. This nine-kilometer route consists mainly of a dirt track, and the section between Command Posts 16 and 21 requires a four-wheeled-drive vehicle. KKL-JNF has provided recreation areas and explanatory signs at most of the main battle sites along the Jeep Road and Convoy Ridge.

Command Post 21
This hilltop was captured by Palmach-Harel fighters in Operation Maccabi on the nights of May 9th and 10th, 1948. A fierce battle ensued before the attackers were repulsed. The site offers an excellent view towards Shaar HaGai.
 
Command Post 16
Situated at the top of Mount Orna, where a stone memorial topped with sheaves pays tribute to the Palmach-Harel fighters. Fighting here was fierce, and the Brigade sustained a great many casualties. A scenic lookout with benches can be found nearby.

Command Post Ridge   


Photo: Yoav Devir

Command Post Ridge (Shluhat Mishlatim) in the north of the park is accessed from Henion HaPortzim (visitors arriving from Tel Aviv will need to turn round at the Hemed Interchange). KKL-JNF has created two trails along this ridge, the Command Post Trail and the Diefenbaker Trail (named after the 13th President of Canada), which partially meet at certain points. Private vehicles should use only the more southerly Command Post Trail, which begins at the recreation area adjacent to the Jerusalem Breakthrough Memorial near Shoresh Interchange.
 
This memorial, so familiar to all those who travel along the main highway to Jerusalem, consists of six metal poles thrusting out from a concrete base with an energy that symbolizes the raising of the siege of Jerusalem during Israel’s War of Independence. The site includes a scenic lookout towards the hills of the Coastal Plain and the recreation area has a memorial to the soldiers of the Palmach’s 6th Battalion. 

From Henion HaPortzim we can continue westwards along the red-marked trail towards Command Post Ridge and keep going until we see the remains of armored cars at intervals along the route. These are the remnants of the armored vehicles and trucks from the War of Independence that took part in the convoys struggling to raise the siege and make their way up to beleaguered Jerusalem.
 
As we drive along the route we can see the forests and orchards planted along the ridge. In 1995 a huge fire destroyed a large portion of the forests in the Shaar HaGai area. The landscape restoration work undertaken here by KKL-JNF includes reconstruction of the terraces, planting orchards and reconsideration of which varieties of tree are best suited the area. Further along the route, where the roads branch off, we come to the Japanese Garden developed with the help of the Japanese Beit Shalom organization, which includes a model of part of the map of Israel constructed from stones, sand and earth. This garden follows the principles of form and aesthetics characteristic of Japanese gardens, and, because members of Beit Shalom believe Jerusalem to be the key to world peace, it is situated at the crossroads leading to the city.


Photo: Yoav Devir

Further on, above the trail, we come to Command Posts 6, 7 and 8, which gave the ridge its name. These positions were occupied by the Harel Brigade in May 1948 and withstood attacks from Cannon Ridge (Rekhes HaTotahim, today Ayalon Park) for many long days. Command Post 8 on the Diefenbaker Trail was captured by the Harel Brigade in May 1948, while Command Post 10, some two kilometers away, was an Israeli position against the Jordanian Legion on Cannon Ridge in the Latrun area, right up until the Six-Day War. Some of the fighters manning the command posts were Gadna (“Youth Battalions”) youngsters from the Jerusalem Brigade.

The Turkish fort
At the end of the route, near Shaar HaGai (just north of the gas station), at Khirbet Harsis, there is a Turkish fort with a water cistern close by. This was just one of seventeen guard posts constructed by the Turks along the highway from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and it marks the end of our vehicle tour.

Another important site is the Shaar HaGai Caravanserai (khan), which lies on the south side of the entrance to the valley and can be accessed only from Route no. 38 from Beit Shemesh to Shaar HaGai. This caravanserai was one of the way stations built by the Turks at the end of the 19th century to provide accommodation for pilgrims traveling from Jaffa to Jerusalem. The building, which still retains part of its tiled roof, stands close by the side of the Tel Aviv to Jerusalem Highway, opposite the gas station. In 1869, part of the road adjacent to the site was paved to allow access for carriages and carts, and when the structure itself was built in 1873, it included a ground floor with stables, a bakery, a vaulted courtyard and an orchard, and served as a roadside hostelry where travelers could rest and recover before continuing their journey.