Ten days before Israel was declared a state, Palmach commander Yitzhak Rabin requested air support for an assault on Arabs who were blocking the road to Jerusalem. After two aborted attempts, a Norseman aircraft managed to lift off. “We see the target and are launching the attack,” reported the crew. The plane crashed almost immediately afterwards, and all six soldiers were killed. It was only in September of 1948, after the area came under Israeli control, that a search could be made for their bodies.
Not far from Jerusalem, on Pilots’ Mountain (Har Hatayasim), a striking monument topped with a piece of the Norseman honors the six fallen airmen. Nearby, an audio guide (called a masbiran in Hebrew) relates the story of the catastrophe, along with fascinating information about the role of the Air Force in Israel’s history.
We have written about audio guides in the past, and are extremely enthusiastic about these amazingly free and marvelous additions to Israeli sites that everyone – tourists and Israelis alike – can enjoy. Created by the Golan Wind-Energy Company, they provide in-depth information at sites that range from nature reserves to off-the-track viewpoints.
Below you will find a second collection of unique and slightly off-the-beaten-track sites equipped with audio guides (for the first group, see our July 18, 2015 article). Pilots’ Mountain is only partially wheelchair accessible; for the other sites, check the descriptions.
Just north of Shipon Junction, along Highway 91 in the Golan Heights, a striking monument stands at the entrance to a beautiful forest. Constructed out of parts taken from damaged Syrian tanks, the monument is dedicated to Brigade 679, an Israeli army reservist division that was established in the early 1970s. When called up at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War after the Syrian army invaded the Golan Heights, the brigade inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.
Five metal plates soldered onto the monument, which is situated on a basalt platform, give it a winged effect. Surrounding the impressive structure are 74 metal plaques, each carrying the name of a Brigade soldier killed in the Yom Kippur War. Nearby, picnic tables are shaded by flourishing cedar and oak trees. If you visit in late winter you will find a Mediterranean rosebud tree flowering in a glorious shade of pink. (Wheelchair accessible)
The Lone Oak
Just outside Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion stands a 700-year-old kermes oak. Known as the Lone Oak, the tree stood at the center of the bloc’s four little pre-state kibbutzim until, on May 12, 1948, Kfar Etzion fell to the Arab Legion and almost every defender was brutally massacred. The three other settlements quickly surrendered and their defenders were taken prisoner.
After all four communities were razed by the Arabs, only the Lone Oak was left standing. Until the region was returned to Israel during the Six Day War, it was a symbol of Gush Etzion that survivors and their children would gaze at from afar. Today the site is beautifully landscaped as a touching memorial site with an audio information center telling the story of Gush Etzion. (Wheelchair accessible)
Monument to the Bedouin Soldier
Inaugurated by former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on April 26, 1993 – that year’s Independence Day – Monument to the Bedouin Soldier is one of the most beautiful military memorial sites in Israel. It bears the names of 154 Bedouin soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their country.
Especially moving is the Garden of the Broken Heart. Dedicated to those Bedouin soldiers whose places of burial remain unknown, this incredibly touching memorial consists of a series of human-like rocks standing mute atop on a bright green lawn.
The entire site is stunningly landscaped. It includes a museum of Bedouin heritage and information about the fallen soldiers. Signs point to the site signs off Highway 77, near Hamovil Junction in the lower Galilee. (Wheelchair accessible)
Black Arrow Heritage Site
From 1953 to 1956 Israeli paratroopers carried out 70 different operations. The amazing Black Arrow Heritage Site, located next to Kibbutz Nir’am in the Negev, was named for an action in Gaza carried out in 1955 after an Israeli in Rehovot was murdered by infiltrating Arabs called “fedayun.”
Learn all about these daring campaigns on a visit to the site, which sheds light on that exciting early era in IDF history. The army did not yet have firm military traditions and innovative methods of fighting, and those initiated by the paratroopers eventually became standard IDF practice.
Nearby, the Zuckerman picnic site boasts an extra attraction: Truce House. It was here that, until 1967, Egypt, the UN and Israel arranged for the exchange of prisoners. (Wheelchair accessible)
Dead Sea Works Overlook
In 1902, Theodor Herzl published a book in which he described his vision of Israel 50 years hence. Among his futuristic dreams was a factory that would extract minerals from the Dead Sea and a canal that would link the Mediterranean with the Dead Sea to provide hydroelectric power. The first of these aspirations has been accomplished; the other is at present in its planning stages.
Russian mining engineer Moshe Novomeisky was influenced by Herzl’s book in the 1920s, and began the first serious research into realizing the Dead Sea’s commercial potential. After a long political battle with the British authorities, he was granted permission to establish such an enterprise. The Dead Sea Works opened in 1930.
Forced to close during the War of Independence, it reopened in the mid 1950s, modernized and ready to change the face of the Dead Sea – and boy has it changed.
Today the Dead Sea Works is a thriving company employing over 1,600 people. They manufacture 40% of the world’s bromine, potash for agriculture, magnesium chloride and, of course, salt. An audio guide offering even more information is located next to the Dead Sea Works Overlook, high above the factories and what remains of the water. (Wheelchair accessible)
For more detailed directions to any of the sites, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aviva Bar-Am is the author of seven English-language guides to Israel.
Shmuel Bar-Am is a licensed tour guide who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups.