A Memorial To Jerusalem’s Pioneers

I remember my first trip ever to Jerusalem when I was a young teenager. I had the idea that I was bound to feel something stir within me just knowing that I was about to see the holiest city to Judaism. I was so disappointed when I felt nothing as the bus climbed its way up to the capital.

The suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw, on the hilltop, what looked like a giant steel hand with fingers pointing in the direction we were traveling. It glistened in the sun and I was mesmerized by it. At the same time our guide was pointing out the ruins of destroyed and burnt-out vehicles that had been attacked by the Arabs while trying to open the way to Jerusalem during the War of Independence in 1948. Jerusalem was under siege. They were running out of food and water, not to mention ammunition which the inhabitants needed to replenish if they were to live long enough to receive the food and water. They were desperately waiting for some trucks to get through to them

Over the last 76 years, the road to Jerusalem has been rebuilt and straightened out many times, but in 1948 it was steep and winding, and the convoy of trucks full of supplies for the starving Jerusalemites had to make its way very slowly and carefully. Only a few of the trucks were armored, the rest were sitting ducks for the Jordanian snipers on the hilltops all around.

My mind started conjuring up pictures of the young heroes and heroines, many of whom had only just arrived from the hell of Europe, lying on the floor of their vehicles in an attempt to avoid the shots fired at them. Many never survived the journey and the remnants of these vehicles are a constant reminder to all who drive nonchalantly along the road today without a second thought, that others before them had paved the way and perished.

I am privileged that Jerusalem has now been my home for 40 years. Each time I pass that memorial on the hilltop, known in Hebrew as Yad l’portzei Yerushelayim – a memorial to those who broke the siege and saved Jerusalem in 1948, I realize how much we all owe to those young fighters. They were links in a chain of thousands of years that kept the Jewish people dreaming of returning home.

And for some of us that dream has been fulfilled.