Armon Hanatziv- Background
Armon Hanatziv Ridge
The Armon Hanatziv Ridge (in Arabic: Jabel al-Mukaber) is the most prominent ridge in the southern part of ancient Jerusalem. Its height, in comparison to the City of David, perfectly illustrates the words of the Biblical poet: “Jerusalem, mountains surround it” (Psalms 125:2). The ridge continues as a narrow, long plateau, from the national water divide until the United Nation observers’ headquarters – which was once the British High Commissioner’s house. Southeast of the UN observers’ headquarters, the ridge soars to its highest peak, named Antenna Hill, its cap measuring 795meters above sea level.
The ridge is the water divide between the upper basin of the Daraja Valley to the south and the upper basin of the Kidron Valley to the north. At the foot of the ridge is the deep channel of Atzal River (Zechariah 14:5), which advances toward the Kidron Valley. Its Biblical name was preserved by the Arabs as Wadi Yasul. North of it and closer to the ancient city is the rocky Ben Hinnom Valley. Although these channels create a topographical separation between the Armon Hanatziv Ridge and the Old City, the ridge is actually only about 2 kilometers as the crow flies from the Temple Mount, which is Mount Moriah. The ridge offers an excellent view of this site, and therefore, the peak is traditionally identified as the point where Abraham looked out, on the third day of his journey, and saw the site where he would bind Isaac in “the land of Moriah,” as it says: “And Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar” (Genesis 22:4).
Despite its height and topographical dominance, the strategic significance of the ridge was limited until modern times due to its relatively great distance and topographic separation from the city. Over the course of history, Jerusalem was conquered time after time through the territories that dominate the northern and western sides of the city. Only during World War I did the situation change, and the ridge was first considered part of the British power base, before General Allenby entered the city on the 11th of December, 1917. In 1933, the High Commissioner’s house was inaugurated. However, the British only enjoyed the lavish headquarters that represented their sovereignty for 15 years. Just a day before the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, on the 4th of Iyar, 5708 (May 13, 1948), the British abandoned the house and left the city. The Red Cross took over the building but did not prevent the soldiers of the Jordanian Arab Legion from taking control of the ridge.
On the night between the 17th and 18th of August, 1948, a battalion from the Etzioni Brigade under the command of Meir Zorea, later a general in the IDF, attacked the western portion of the ridge. Their goal was to improve the IDF’s hold on the southeastern part of the city. The territory was conquered without opposition and the forces held the exposed area at the foot of Armon Hanatziv. The Arabs hurried to launch a counter-attack, using artillery and taking advantage of their topographic advantage. The UN observers, who had already entered Armon Hanatziv at that time, did not attempt to stop them. The Israeli forces, left exposed in the rocky terrain and without strategic positions or shelter, suffered heavy losses and had no choice but to retreat. The price of this failed attack was very dear: 14 casualties, 24 wounded and 5 soldiers taken captive by the Jordanians.
On October 1, 1948, the Red Cross left Armon Hanatziv without notifying Israel, and the UN observers set up their headquarters at the site.
During the Six Day War, the Arab Legion took control of the site and began to shell the Jewish portion of the partitioned city. This aggression forced the IDF to open a third front in addition to its battles with the Egyptian and Syrian armies. The conquest of the Armon Hanatziv Ridge on the evening of the 26th of Iyar, 5727 (June 5, 1967) began the battle that ended in the liberation of the entire city of Jerusalem and in its wake, all of the territories in Judea and Samaria.
In 1972, the neighborhood of east Talpiyot whose population today (2008) totals 12,000, was established on the southern end of the Armon Hanatziv Ridge,.