Every diplomat who visits Israel is inevitably brought to Yad Vashem, the dramatic and appropriate emotional high point of every trip to Israel. Something is missing, though, in the lack of understanding of so many well-meaning foreigners who come to Israel. After seeing the usual sights, they inevitably repeat the same tired diplomatic formula and too often fail to understand the relationship between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. There is another destination that should be visited by every VIP as they come to Jerusalem, and that is Ammunition Hill, on the northern part of what in 1967 was Jordanian occupied eastern Jerusalem.
The hill was strategic, so along with the nearby Police Academy, it was fortified with stone trenches and manned by veterans of the Arab Legion. On June 6, 1967, a very bloody battle was fought here, and the Israeli paratroopers who took the hill paid dearly for opening the Northern route to the Old City. Due to the terrain and the prepared system of trenches, the stubborn defenders were able to inflict casualties on the paratroopers far in excess of normal rates. About one-third of the elite soldiers in the reinforced company were wounded, and 36 were killed.
Now there is a memorial site there, and 182 olive trees were planted there to remember each of the soldiers killed in the fight for Jerusalem that week. In the museum there is a photo and a metal plate inscribed with their brief biographies for each of the fallen. In some cases, so little time passed between high school and their deaths that there is not much to say besides: “Ari loved to laugh, and his friends will miss his sense of humor.” Others accomplished a great deal in their war-shortened lives.
The point is that Israel paid a huge price in the blood of their most precious resource to take Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria from the enemy. You cannot stand at the base of those fortifications and look up at the trenches of Ammunition Hill and think casually of the sacrifice that was asked of these paratroopers. You can also not calmly stand there and ask Israel to surrender Jerusalem or the rest of our people’s homeland in Judea and Samaria. This ground was made sacred by what these soldiers did here. American diplomats should be brought to Ammunition Hill, before they begin plotting their path to a Nobel Prize. There are higher honors.