Jerusalem minister battles to save iconic Ammunition Hill war memorial

Meir Porush sends urgent letter to prime minister asking him to to free up stalled state funding to save the Six Day War battle site

The entrance of the museum at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on August 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The entrance of the museum at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on August 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage Meir Porush sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to personally intervene after the iconic Ammunition Hill war memorial and museum in the capital announced it would be forced to close its doors within weeks due to lack of funding.

Porush implored Netanyahu to quickly push through the bureaucratic process of appointing members to an administrative committee, without which the government can’t transfer its usual annual funding. The term of current members on the board has expired.

A military post at the site was built by the British, then used by the Jordanians and captured by Israeli paratroopers in a fierce 1967 Six Day War battle that was key to capturing the Old City in Jerusalem.

Ammunition Hill now hosts emotional ceremonies for paratroopers and forms the basis of lesson plans in heroism and moral values for new army recruits.

“I would ask you, as someone for whom the legacy of the Six Day War and the memory of the fallen are surely very important to you, to instruct the relevant parties in the Prime Minister’s Office to carry out the necessary process today so that we can remove the threat of closure from the agenda,” Porush wrote in his letter Wednesday.

The heritage center that operates Ammunition Hill warned at the end of last week that it was in dire straits, prompting Porush to allocate NIS 1.5 million ($411,433) of his ministry’s budget to fund the center.

But on Tuesday, the center announced it would close at the beginning of next month, saying in a statement it was due to the “drastic cut of about 50 percent in the center’s budget and the failure to transfer the necessary advance for its continued operation.”

It added that if the full amount were transferred it would be able to remain open.

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage Meir Porush arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

According to the Walla outlet, the heritage center has been pressing state officials for a year and a half to formally appoint a minimum of eight members to its oversight committee, without which the Finance Ministry cannot transfer state funding.

The council is composed of three representatives of the battalions that fought at the site, one representative from the families of those who fell in the battle, a representative from the Jerusalem Municipality, another from the Education Ministry, one from the Institute for Higher Education, and one from the state archives.

Earlier this week, Menachem Landau, chair of the Ammunition Hill managing foundation, told the Kipa outlet that two years ago the site received a total of NIS 8 million. A year ago that was cut down to NIS 5 million, but “we still were able to manage.”

“But now they have taken away NIS 2.5 million, which is not enough even for regular maintenance of water and electricity,” Landau said.

The site has faced closure over a lack of funding in the past. In 2012, the government stepped in at the last minute to save Ammunition Hill when it could not continue its operations.

Israeli soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade during a swearing-in ceremony for the Paratroopers Brigade, at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on November 11, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

The battle of Ammunition Hill, fought in the trenches and costing 36 Israeli and 71 Jordanian lives, has long served as a symbol of Israeli heroism. Days after the war, Yoram Taharlev wrote a song called “On Ammunition Hill” that has served as an unofficial paratrooper anthem. The brigade still issues its red berets there to all of its combat troops.

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