Shortly after Israel was declared a nation, she was forced to defend herself against attacking Arab armies. Among the many brave efforts of the newly formed and poorly armed Jewish military, a special force – the Harel Brigade – was established to keep the road to Jerusalem open so that needed supplies – food, medicine, and weapons – could reach the city.
The soldiers of the Harel Brigade sacrificed much in this difficult mission, and today many monuments can be found throughout the Jerusalem Hills to mark their courage and the lives lost in this vital service.
A new Times of Israel article offers a brief tour of some of these memorials, a fitting vicarious journey on the heels of Israel Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day earlier this week.
January, 1948. The war is in its second month and soldiers from the army in a country which is not yet a State are falling in battle. The first Palmach soldier to be buried at Kiryat Anavim is hastily laid to rest in a dry riverbed next to the local cemetery. He is quickly joined by others, most of them from the Harel Brigade. Casualties mount at such an alarming pace that graves are dug for fallen troops even before they set out for the battlefield.
Kiryat Anavim, where Harel was based, boasts the only cemetery in the country dedicated to fallen soldiers from one specific brigade. At the far end of this unusual burial ground stands a striking tribute to the Brigade that, from the side, resembles both a lion at rest — and a rifle at the ready. The late artist Menahem Shemi designed the monument; his son is buried here with his comrades at arms.