Hilltop Cited in Israel Itineraries

NEW YORK -- A historic, strategic hilltop called Latrun is being listed on several tour itineraries as a site of particular importance during Israel's 50th birthday year.

The area figured in biblical accounts of Joshua and, later, Judah Macabee, who fought battles visible from Latrun's peak.

Still standing is the Crusader fortress built by King Richard the Lionhearted.

But it was during Israel's War of Independence in 1948 that the name became significant in modern history.

Latrun overlooks the road that connects the coastal plain's urban sprawl -- which radiates from Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean -- with the winding mountain paths leading to Jerusalem.

In 1948, it was controlled by Jordanian armed forces, which had laid siege to Jerusalem and were denying shipments of food and water to the city's residents.

The inexperienced fighters of the fledgling Jewish state tried four times to take the hill and failed, so an emergency bypass dubbed the "Burma Road" was created at night and was used to break the siege.

From 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967, Latrun remained in Jordanian hands and the bypass Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road was long and winding.

After 1967, Israel built a high-speed highway to link its two primary cities, cutting travel time almost in half, to the current 50 minutes.

Latrun is now home to an armored corps museum.

On display are tanks from the 1948 war plus Russian tanks captured from Arab armies in later wars and Israel's own armored vehicles.

The museum is open daily, even during ongoing renovations, and tours in English can be arranged.

For more about Latrun, call (011) 972-8 924-6722 or the New York office for Israel tourism.

Israel Ministry of Tourism:

Phone: (888) 77-ISRAEL or (212) 499-5640

Web: www.goisrael.com

E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]

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