by Gil Gertel and Noam Even
Every tourist who travels to Jerusalem for the first time is invariably shown the skeletons of the armored vehicles that line the roadside. They are what remain from the convoys that played such a big role in the battle for control of the Jerusalem Corridor during the War of Independence. However, many travelers who are not part of a group never get to hear the story of the convoys.
Most of the convoys consisted of supply trucks. Armored vehicles were numbered and only accompanied the convoys for certain parts of the journey.
The convoy method developed over a period. At first only one car made the trip and then gradually two and three. In the beginning, convoy protection was from inside the busses and later from the tops of cars and armored vehicles, and only later by controlling the hilltops. Truck convoys also consisted of small numbers of trucks, first up to 10 and these gradually grew in size to the huge convoys of April 1948, which numbered 200 trucks each.
The burnt-out skeletons of armored vehicles were left at the side of the road on the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway as a monument, to memorialize the battle for safe passage to Jerusalem. The skeletons are in four groups on either side of the road between Shaar Ha-gai and Shoeva junctions, a distance of six miles (four kilometers). One can to stop on the side of the road to walk among the authentic remains of the vehicles that brought food, water and arms from Tel Aviv to besieged Jerusalem in early 1948.
The convoys were extremely vulnerable. Piles of stones were placed along the width of the road forcing the drivers to halt. Then snipers hidden between the rocks in the hills near the road, would open fire on the riders and vehicles.
Most of the trucks belonged to various kibbutz cooperative transport companies. Many of the drivers volunteered and the return trip was also via convoy. Supplies were covered with canvas and tied in the back of the trucks.
Driving speed was greatly decreased (to as little as 16 miles an hour) due to the armored plates that were attached to the cabin doors and windows, to protect the drivers from sniper fire. Drivers’ cabins had no ventilation and the drivers suffered unbearable heat – to the point of describing the experience as being ‘cooked’ during the trip.
Lesser Known Facts:
* During the battle for the road to Jerusalem, 230 convoys set out to bring supplies to the besieged city.
* Only eight convoys had to turn back without reaching their destination.
* Over 3100 trucks made their way to Jerusalem carrying 10,500 tons of supplies.
* The large convoys organized near Kibbutz Hulda and began their journey at sunrise. The first to leave were busses and private cars, then the trucks. While the first vehicles approached Jerusalem, about 80 miles from Hulda, the last in line had not yet begun to move.
* Roughly 40 trucks were hit by enemy fire and were unable to continue the journey. Some were towed to places of hiding and others were left along the road.
* In February 1948 – 1299 trucks made the uphill trip to Jerusalem, in 81 convoys.
The armored vehicles symbolize the courage of those who guarded the convoys and who sacrificed their lives to bring supplies to the besieged city of Jerusalem. In the battles on the road to Jerusalem more than 400 fighters were killed, among them those who fell in the battle of Latrun.