The Kastel, Where The Siege Of Jerusalem Was Finally Broken
The hill where the Jews first went on the offensive in the War of Independence is now a National Park, restored as a memorial to the soldiers who fell during its bloody battles
Most people think that the War of Independence began on May 14, 1948 when Israel was declared a state. Not so. In fact, the first shots of the war were fired half a year earlier, the day after the United Nations passed a resolution dividing Palestine into one Arab and one Jewish State.
Palestine’s Arabs were violently opposed to the resolution and launched an assault less than 24 hours after it was approved. Utilizing methods with which we are all too familiar today, a band of Arab terrorists ambushed and killed seven Jews traveling by bus to Jerusalem.
For the next four months local and imported Arabs ran riot in Jewish neighborhoods and cities; they also tried to capture settlements around the country. But most of the Arab effort was focused on Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people.
Since conquering Jerusalem with its 100,000 Jewish inhabitants would be difficult, the Arab command decided to lay siege to the city instead. And it proved rather an easy task, for while Jerusalem’s Arab residents had access to villages and towns north, south and west of the Holy City, Jewish inhabitants were isolated from the other Jewish communities and were completely dependent on the coastal cities for water, food and fuel.
Jerusalem was supplied by way of one main artery: the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road. Today a major highway, 54 years ago it was a narrow, single lane surrounded on both sides by the steep Jerusalem hills. To prevent supplies from reaching the city, Arab villagers would shoot at Jewish vehicles from above, killing drivers and passengers alike.