Castel Fortress on The Road To Jerusalem
There is no better way to teach children about the History of Israel than to be able to show them the actual locations of crucial battles. Today, the road to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv winds uphill, a black ribbon surrounded by trees, greenery and small villages dotting the landscape. Sixty years ago, it was the site of the most crucial battles during the War of Independence. The battleground for Jerusalem, it was said, was the width of that road. The History:
The Castel overlooks the main road to Jerusalem. The word Castel means castle, in French. French Crusaders, a thousand years ago, built a fortress on the top of the highest mountain in the area, giving them a military advantage over those who lived along the route of the main road. After the Crusaders left, Arabs lived in the area, in a village they called Castel. This village gave them the military advantage over the road. Tel Aviv was, and still is, the main portal in the country, whether by boat or plane. During and after the Shoah, Jews arrived to the country from Europe and many moved to Jerusalem. In order to prevent this, the Arabs tried to cut off Jerusalem from the main population clusters, on the coast. They did this by sniping at the Jewish drivers coming with supplies from the coast, to supply Jerusalem. Food, water, medicine and personnel were unable to come through, and hunger became a real danger for Jews in Jerusalem. Our Holy City was under siege!
Once you park and start walking up the path, you’ll find an outdoor “plaza” with different ’stations’ and signs about the battles, beginning in April 1948. The battle for Jerusalem started with Operation Nachshon. Nachshon ben Aminadav, according to our tradition, was the first to step into the Red Sea, which led to the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, during our exodus from Egypt. The Zionist leaders named this important operation after Nachshon Ben Aminadav because they realized that war was at hand and this could be the beginning of the independence of the State of Israel. Keep walking up the hill, to the top. There are bunkers and trenches you can enter along the way, which will give you and your children a real feeling for how the Jewish soldiers felt at the time.
A Battle Story:
There is a story to be told here, about Abd El Khader El Husseini, the Arab army commander. He understood the importance of holding on to the Castel as an Arab stronghold, but the Israeli Palmach fighters captured it the night of April 5-6. The Arabs knew they had to get it back! In the battle the next night, Abd El Khader el Husseini, himself, went to fight–and was never heard from again. It’s only later on that his soldiers realized that he had died in battle. They were very upset, and gathered their men to return and fight the Palmachnikim. In a very bloody battle, in which almost all the Jews were killed, the Arabs conquered the Castel again. When they did, they discovered the body of their leader, Abd el Khader el Husseini. They quickly brought his body to Jerusalem, to be buried in a hero’s funeral on the Temple Mount. While they were all at the funeral, more Jewish fighters came and recaptured the Castel and the Castel has remained in Israeli hands ever since. Activities:
Movie:There is a movie about the location and its’ battles in the cavelike bunker on the top of the hill.
Model: There is a model demonstrating the battles.
Views:From the top of the hill, you can see Har Nof, which is the area of Deir Yassin, the Arab village that was the site of the battle the next day. You can also see neighboring villages, Maaleh Hachamisha, Shoresh, Motzah, Har Adar, and more. Today, they are beautiful built up communities.
Special Guided Tours: Speak to Naama 057-776-2526 about a special evening "Lantern Tour" of Castel available in English or Hebrew. For existing tours you can join acll *3639.
Entrance Fee: 13 NIS (Adult) 7 NIS (Child)
Tours: To arrange lamp light tours call 02-623-2191
Getting There:Take Route 1 from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and turn off at the Mevasseret Zion junction, and follow the signs to the Castel. The roads are very narrow, and even if you think it can’t be thru there, it is!
Article Guest Author: Esti Herskowitz is a wonderful tour guide based out of Jerusalem. She is a great storyteller and has the most amazing Tanach (Bible) with thousands of post it notes in it. She brings a location ALIVE with stories, history and activities. Esti has led tours for adults but has a great knack for bonding with kids and knowing what they will enjoy. She led my family on a fabulous tour of Cesarea and kept the kids ages 9-1 entertained the whole time. You can reach Esti at
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