​Castel National site

​​​

The hill rising over Road 1 has become a symbol of the struggle to break through to Jerusalem during the War of Independence. Between trenches and bunkers, the Castel Park is a hands-on memorial to one of the fascinating chapters of the war.



 

Points of interest

  • The position controlling the road to Jerusalem during the War of Independence, which has become a heritage site
  • Group activity stations bring to life values such as friendship, leadership, determination and dependability
  • Monument in memory of those who fell at the Castel
  • Ancient well, in which an 11-minute film depicting the history of the Castel is screened

     

    Geographic location


    The Castel National Park is on the outskirts of Mevasseret Zion, in the Jerusalem hills. Access to the park is from the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway (Road 1). At Har'el interchange, turn south towards Mevasseret Zion (Road 3965). At the first traffic circle, turn right into Ma'ale HaCastel St., and then right at the first turning, and left into Keren Kayemet Le'Israel St., which leads into the park's parking lot.

     

    Lookout points


    The Mukhtar's House: The highest point of the Castel – affording a breathtaking view of the Jerusalem hills.

    Fayette lookout point: At the top of the scenic path, looking out over the western and northern expanses of the Jerusalem hills.

      

Archaeology and history

 

The Castel was declared as a national park in 1980, commemorating the heritage forged in the battle over the road to Jerusalem, besieged during the War of Independence, and is a memorial site to the soldiers of the Har'el Brigade and the Moria battalion of the Etsyoni Brigade. It covers an area of 150 dunams.

 

Reason for declaration

  • Memorial to fallen soldiers, and conservation and cultivation of a battle heritage site from the days of the War of Independence.

     

    Conservation activities of the Nature and Parks Authority
  • Preparing the site for visitors
  • Preparing group activity stations for illustrating values relating to the War of Independence
  • Setting up explanatory and direction signs
  • Preparing the ancient well for projecting a film telling the story of the Castel
  • Operating an overnight campground for up to 200 visitors

     

Points of interest in detail

Video: The starting point of the visit is a covered area under a pergola where a three minute introductory video is screened. The area is accessible to people with disabilities.

Communication trenches: The path to the top of the hill passes through communication trenches. The trenches were dug up after the War of Independence, because until the Six Day War the Castel was a military post, continuing to serve as a position for defending the road to Jerusalem against a possible Jordanian attack. 

The well: An ancient well, in which there are still signs of plaster and parts of an olive press. In the well, a presentation of the battle is screened – an 11-minute film describing the battle for the Castel.

The Mukhtar's House: A spectacular lookout point and memorial site, where the names of the fallen in the battles over the Castel are carved on a rock.

Scenic trail: From the Mukhtar's House, a scenic trail descends through lush, uncultivated vegetation to the parking lot. Alongside the trail, a relaxation corner has been created under the shade of an oak tree.

 

Geography

The Castel National Park lies atop Mount Maoz (779 m), which towers over the eastern part of the town of Mevasseret Zion. The hill is part of the hilly range extending from the village of Bet Surik to Mount Heret and Mount Tsuba. The range is bounded by Kesalon Stream to the north and west, Luz Stream to the north-east, and Soreq Stream to the south. The Castel hill is the highest point in the surrounding area, and even in Roman times controlled the road to Jerusalem. Today, Road 1 passes along this route.

 

Archaeology and history


There are some who identify the Castel with Mount Efron, on the border of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Joshua 15:9). The name comes from the Roman word castellum, meaning fortress, and remains from the Roman period have indeed been found at the site. In those days, the road from Emmaus in the Ayalon Valley to Jerusalem passed by the foot of the Castel. From the Castel, a winding road known as "the Seven Sisters" (today in Mevasseret Zion) went down to Motsa, and then ascended the "Roman road" (on the fringes of the Har Hamenuhot Cemetery) to Jerusalem. 

In the 12th century, the Crusaders built a fortress on the hill, which they called Castellum Belvoir (in French: the Beautiful View fortress). The fortress was part of a chain of fortifications constructed in the Jerusalem hills. Later a small Arab village was built here, which retained the old Roman name for the place – al-Qastal.

On November 29, 1947 the Partition Plan for the Land of Israel was passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Arabs rejected it, and as a result the War of Independence broke out. Initially this was a civilian war. The Arabs focused on cutting off the roads to the Jewish settlements, and the Jews tried to break through the siege with convoys of trucks and reinforced buses ("sandwiches").

By March 1948 1,200 Jews had been killed, half of them civilians. The Jews understood that they had to change their strategy. On April 3, 1948, after a large shipment of arms arrived from Czechoslovakia, a Jewish force embarked on the first attack of Operation Nahshon. A divisional force of 1,500 soldiers captured territories on the way to Jerusalem in order to achieve a decisive victory on this front. The battle of the Castel belongs to this campaign, which eventually broke the siege of Jerusalem.

Until April 3, the Castel was in Arab hands. On this day, a Palmah force under the command of Eliyahu Sela ("Raanana") set out from Kiryat Anavim and captured the village almost without resistance. After its capture the village was handed over to the soldiers of the Moriah battalion, but hundreds of Arabs maintained a ceaseless attack on the Castel. At dawn on April 8, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, commander of the Arab front, approached the position. The guard spotted and killed him, without knowing who he was. At 10 in the morning the Arabs launched a wide-scale attack against the exhausted soldiers of the Moriah battalion. At noon, reinforcements set out from Kiryat Anavim under the command of Nahum Arieli, but when they arrived the Castel had already been taken and nothing was left but to organize the retreat. Shimon Alfasi, Arieli's second-in-command, gave the order: "The commanders will remain to cover the retreat of the privates". All the Palmah fighters who remained to cover the retreat of their comrades, and all the reinforcements who came to the hill were killed. Of those who retreated, only four were left alive.

The following day, April 9, a Palmah force led by Sela went up to the Castel and found it empty of Arab soldiers. Most of them had gone to take part in the funeral of their revered commander. The Castel remained in the hands of the Jewish soldiers.

In the battles for the Castel, 18 members of the Palmah and 31 Hish (Field Corps) soldiers were killed. Dozens were wounded. Capture of the hill ensured control of the eastern part of the road to Jerusalem, and also symbolized a change in strategy in the struggle of the Jewish settlement: no more attempts to break through the Arabs siege by means of convoys, but instead initiated attack and capture of territory in order to establish control of the road to Jerusalem by the Jewish forces. The Castel was the first Arab village captured in the War of Independence.

 

Flora


The main flora in the Jerusalem hills is Mediterranean woodland. The remains of this woodland can be seen on the western and northern slopes of the Castel, which has been preserved as open space, and includes a few specimens of Palestine Oak (Quercus calliprinos), officinal styrax (Styrax officinalis), Mediterranean Buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), and Mt Atlas mastic tree (Pistacia atlantica). Around many abandoned settlements there are sumac bushes (Rhus coriaria), whose flowers are a component of the za'atar seasoning, and human hands may have played a role in their distribution.

Most of the area today is covered by scrub, with a nice variety of shrubs and bushes such as spiny broom (Calicotome villosa), shrubby Jerusalem sage (Phlomis viscosa), and sage-leaved rock rose (Cistus salviifolius). In winter and spring, anemones and cyclamen flower here. Many of them were transplanted from places where they were threatened with destruction. Also flowering here are the southern daisy (Bellis silvestris), Syrian cornflower thistle (Centaurea cyanoides), red everlasting (Helichrysum sanguineum), and varieties of orchids.

There are also planted trees growing on the Castel, among them cedars (Cedrus), cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), and Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis).

How to get there

Castel National Park is 15 minutes west of Jerusalem. From the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway (no. 1) turn south at the Harel junction into the town of Mevasseret Zion. After passing the local council building turn right onto Ma‘aleh HaCastel St. and proceed to the parking lot. Head up to the site on foot.

 

Length of tour: 

About 3 hours

Best season: year-round

Don't miss: Walking through the trenches and the rooms where Crusader and Arab construction can be seen incorporating Israeli fortifications. 

Other attractions: Guided tours and activities are available by reservation, including a lamp-light tour (For more information call the Lowlands and Mountains Education Center, 02-623-2191.); memorial to the Jewish fighters who fell in the battle for the Castel; picnic grove (no barbecuing allowed).
 

 Opening hours

Last entry one hours before above closing hour

SUMMER:
Sunday-Tursday And Saturda-8 A.M.-5 P.M
Fridy And Holiday eves- 8 A.M.- 4 P.M.

 

WINTER:
Sunday-Tursday And Saturda-8 A.M.-4 P.M
Fridy And Holiday eves- 8 A.M.- 3 P.M.

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach: 8:00 - 13:00

 Contact us

 Phone: 02-534-2741
  Fax / Email: 02-579-5274

Entrance fee

Adult: NIS 14; child: NIS 7
Student: NIS 12
Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 13; child: NIS 6

Entrance to dogs: 

  Prohibited

Further information

Click here for site pamphlet


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

    ​ In the Castel National Site adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    Central Level:

    • Parking
    • paved walkway
    • movie
    • gathering area for groups
    • restroom

    Lower Level:

    • Paved access by vehicle
    • Signage at the memorial site for the visually impaired.

    Upper Level:

    • Accessible by foot
    • the dirt trail is not suitable for people using walkers and wheelchairs
    • A visit to the memorial site at the top of the hill includes walking through trenches.

    31.797703,35.142636
    Castel National Site