By Judah S. Harris
The Six Day War memorial and museum at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem might not exist today were it not for the protest of those families who suffered direct losses in this chapter of the war. Right after the fighting had ceased, Israel thought it important to build a neighborhood on this site; bulldozers were readied. But many felt strongly that the battle area should remain as it was — a battle area, replete with the trenches and bunkers, a testament to those who participated in the liberation — the unification of Jerusalem.
A paratrooper brigade no longer needed in the south, given Israeli military successes on the Egyptian front, was diverted to Jerusalem. There was a Jordanian legion positioned on Ammunition Hill, a military post built during the British-era, that enforced a separation between the Israeli-controlled western section of Jerusalem and the Mt. Scopus Jewish enclave, which included the university and hospital. The number of Jordanian soldiers present was a few times larger than expected, intelligence was lacking (some of the Israeli forces were only working with an aerial photo which offered minimal detail of Ammunition Hill), and a number of tactical mistakes were made during the fierce fighting.
The battle began in the early hours of the morning on June 6, 1967, and after the destruction of the remaining (and largest) bunker, the hill was finally captured by morning. The Israelis acknowledged that the Jordanian soldiers had fought bravely, and a burial place atop the hill was found for 17 bodies, gathered, with the help of prisoners, during a two-hour effort, a hand-drawn marker on top attesting to their temporary resting place (the bodies would be returned to their country of origin) and their fighting fortitude.
There were a total of 36 Israeli soldiers and 71 Jordanian soldiers that were killed in this battle, on the hill and in nearby locations. A well-known Israeli folk song composed and sung a year or so after the war includes brief actual testimonies from the soldiers who were present — “Givat HaTachmoshet.”
Here in the northern parts of Jerusalem is a place that school groups visit, a popular attraction for tourists, a source of education and inspiration for IDF army recruits, and a designated spot for seasonal ceremonies for the public or invited guests. Available for the photographer to explore are the stone and cement structures, the solitude of pine trees and native grasses, and the engraved names and memories of men who, for the “sake of Jerusalem” didn’t remain silent, as they fought their way through the boundaries and demarcation lines, and crouched in the tightest of places, on Ammunition Hill.
Judah S. Harris is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker, and writer based in Jerusalem and New York. A noted photo educator and founder of Judah S. Harris Photo Workshops, he teaches group workshops and offers one-on-one coaching sessions for all skill levels. Judah’s eloquent narrative photography has been featured on the covers of more than 40 works of literary fiction, in advertising all over the world, and on the pages of a variety of Jewish and general publications ranging from the New York Times to Mishpacha Magazine. View Judah’s Event Photography at judahsharris.com/folio and journalistic photography at judahsharris.com/journalistic.