The Road to Jerusalem


Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

The highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Highway 1, looks like any other highway in the world. This fact alone is disconcerting. The road to Jerusalem should be special. Somewhere deep down I suppose I wanted it to be a dirt road, a cobblestone road, anything but a normal highway. I even fantasized that the ascent from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would not happen by means of a road at all. It would just happen. In reality, it is a highway. A highway filled with too many cars and bastard truck drivers probing the limits of vehicular stability and good sense.

About two thirds of the way up to Jerusalem, however, an interesting and unusual sight does present itself. It is the sight of abandoned vehicles along the side of the road. They aren’t normal vehicles, passenger cars or trucks. The vehicles are painted in the telltale green that only gets slapped on things owned by the military. You don’t get much time to inspect these military vehicles as you drive by on the highway. It is hard to guess their purpose, though it looks like they’ve been there for a while, remnants from something that happened in the first half of the 20th century.

My friend Ori, who was driving me from Ben-Gurion airport outside of Tel Aviv, explained that the vehicles were remnants of the military convoy that broke the Arab siege of Jerusalem during the War of Independence in 1948. The convoy was led by an American general, Mickey Marcus, Ori told me. “We call him the first Israeli general—aluf in Hebrew—since biblical days, since Joshua blowing his trumpet at the walls of Jericho.” The aluf, Ori said, was shot dead in the final days of the campaign. But the convoy made it through to Jerusalem.

For a week or so, while exploring Jerusalem old and new, the sight of those abandoned military vehicles along the road sat unbothered in the back of my brain. Then, I saw them again on a trip back down to Tel Aviv to visit friends. I began to understand what had nagged at me when I saw the vehicles the first time.

Half-destroyed military vehicles do not normally sit alongside a modern highway. These vehicles are monuments to the military struggles that attend the founding of the modern state of Israel. Such monuments might, in another country, come with an acknowledgment. No such luck in Israel.

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