Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mitzpeh Bikat HaYarden©




About a 20- to 25-minute drive from Jerusalem, traveling on Highway One, Mount Sartabah is seen on the left. Originally, before the Cutheans sabotaged the system, Beis Din used to notify the people that the new month had been sanctified, by lighting mesuos (torches) on the different mountain tops (Mishnah, Rosh Hashana, 2:2). Mount Sartabah is the second mountain of the list of major mountains listed in the Mishnah, which delineates the general route along which these burning torches were lit and waved (ibid 2:4).


Mitzpeh Habikah is located in the proximity of Sartabah. It is opposite a group of Jewish settlements; Petza’el (moshav), Gilgal (kibbutz), Argaman (moshav), and Mehola (moshav) on land that belonged to Jordan before 1967. Israel decided to settle the area, and one settlement after another was built. This mitzpeh, outlook, is a memorial to soldiers who fell during the “Mirdafim” (Pursuits) that took place in the area for about three years after the Six Day War. (This was also the period of Milchemet Ha’atasha (War of Attrition) with Egypt in the south).


After 1967, numerous Arab refugees were living along the newly formed border between Israel and Jordan. It is to be noted that since 1948, Israel has absorbed into Israeli society millions of refugees from all the lands of our dispersion. No one today would call them refugees, yet the Arab World purposely left the Palestinians in the squalid refugee camps as a festering sore.


A case in point, few people today remember the period when hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors lived in Displaced Persons Camps across Europe after WWII. Jewish international  relief organizations fed and clothed them and helped them move on to new lives. Yet the Palestinian refugees have continued to be stateless for generations


Terrorists from the ranks of these Arab refugees would infiltrate into Israel by sneaking though the wadis and would hide in the many caves in the Bikah (Valley referring to the Jordan Valley) area. From these hideouts, they conducted guerrilla warfare and carried out outrageous acts of violence. Often, the terrorists would use Arab women and children as a decoy to escape detection by Israeli troops. The terrorists used other tricky ways so as not to call attention to themselves. For instance, they would attach animal hooves under their shoes so that the IDF would not realize that people had entered the country. They would carry each other s it would seem there were fewer people. Also, they would wear their shoes backwards so their footprints would mix up the Jewish soldiers. At the time the motto in the IDF was “Acharai,” meaning the commanding officer went in front of his troops. Therefore, one finds that many of the names on the white memorial wall at the site are those of high-ranking officers, for as they led their troops to capture the enemy, they were the first to be wounded or killed. It was then that a new policy was formulated in the Israeli army, stating that the troop commander stays behind his platoon. This ensured that the “brainpower” of the group would be available to continue the fray.


Most times, after such an “incident” the Israeli planes would bomb the nearby Jordanian fields.
King Hussein (1935–1999), dubbed the father of modern Jordan, realized that these terrorist infiltrations into Israel were ruining his economy, so he decided to put an end to them. In September 1970 he started hunting down the members of the Palestinian guerrilla organizations in his territory. The terrorists were so frightened of the king that 40 of them requested asylum in ... Israel.


The conflict ended when Hussein expelled the PLO to Lebanon. From that point on, Israel had to contend with terrorists in the north, as Yirmiyahu proclaims, “From the north, evil will come.” It is important to know that although we speak of modern Jordan, there never was an ancient Jordan. Jordan is a political entity, created by Britain in 1922.


The memorial at this site was the idea of Rechavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi. (After Ze’evi was killed by the PFLP in 2001, Road 90 was renamed Gandhi Road in his memory). The sculpture on it was created out of weapon parts, by artist Igal Tomarkin.


Standing at the top of the memorial lookout at the Bikat HaYarden, one takes in an awesome view.Jordan can be seen in the far distance, with Mount Moav and Mount Edom behind it. The eastern edges of the Shomron are also viewed. One can also see deer and other wildlife in the area.


West of Highway 90 is the winding, scenic route, Road No. 458, that goes up to Maale Efraim and crosses the desert and reaches Kfar Adumim. Called Kvish Alon or Derech Eretz HaMirdafim (the Land of Pursuits Way), on this road one can clearly see the hideaway caves in which the terrorists hid. 


At one point, Yigal Alon wanted to return part of the Bikah to Jordan. In anticipation of his plans, this road was paved. This highway was supposed to be the border between Israel and Jordan.
Yigal Alon (1918 – 1980) was an Israeli political and military figure of the Ahdut HaAvoda party (one of the main forerunners of the modern-day Israeli Labor Party). In April 1969, when Levi Eshkol died, he was temporarily replaced by Alon. However, he held this office less than a month, as Golda Meir was persuaded to return to political life and become prime minister in March 1969. We see from this we cannot be sure of what we might have to give away. We can rely only on HaSh-m and no one else. 


Published in Hamodia 25 August 2011

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post. Keren Sartava is especially noticeable from down in the valley. It stands out quite prominently from the surrounding peaks; and it is easy to see why it was one of the places for the bonfires announcing the new month.

    The events of September '70 were what lead to the founding of the Black September terrorist organization; and hence their name. Hussein had trouble with so-called Palestinians constantly. They are actually the majority of Jordan's population; while the Husseins had been brought from outside by the British.

    Wadi Kelt and the other wadis in the area were very popular hikes at one time. One could start at the top, and end in the evening in the Bikah; and catch a late bus back to Yerushalayim. We were acutely aware and grateful to all those soldiers who had carried out the chases and searches in the area. I'm glad to see Eretz Hamirdafim being remembered.

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