The Road to Abu Ghosh

The Road to Abu Ghosh

© David Burton 2022

Abou Ghosh

     In February of 2017, my wife, my 16-year old grandson and I, along with our Israeli-Ameican tour guide, were returning to Jerusalem from a visit to Israel’s Armor Museum at Latrun. Our guide took us on the well-known, but out of the way, Burma Road rather than on the main Tel Aviv–Jerusalem highway (Highway 1). The Burma Road is famous for saving Jewish Jerusalem from starvation during the 1948 Arab siege of Jerusalem.

     We had completed a visit to Yad La’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel’s memorial site for fallen soldiers from the armored corps. We had explored the numerous armored vehicles there.

     From Latrun, our guide took us over a section of the Burma Road, the narrow, winding and unpaved path that was discovered during the 19487-48 siege of Jerusalem and over which supplies were transported to the Jews living in the western part of the city. We visited the spot where a Jeep from Jerusalem met a Jeep from Latrun, verifying that a path to Jerusalem existed, other than the main road which was blocked by Jordanian and Arab fighters. Our drive was somewhat exciting because of the extremely bad conditions on parts of the road. Along the way, we encountered several picnicking families, hikers, bike riders and off-road dune buggies. Part of the road is on the Israel Hiking Trail, identified by white, orange and blue trail markers, that extends from the northern tip of Israel to the southernmost part of the country.

     The 1948 Burma Road in Israel was a makeshift bypass road between Kibbutz Hulda near Latrun and Jerusalem, built under the supervision of General Mickey Marcus during the 1948 Siege of Jerusalem. It was named for the Chinese Burma Road of World War II.
     During the early phase of Israel’s 1948 War of Liberation, local Arab forces took control of the hills overlooking the road to Jerusalem, in effect besieging the city's Jewish population. Vehicles attempting to use the road, Jerusalem's only link to the coast, took heavy fire. Convoys carrying food, weapons, and medical supplies sent by the Yishuv sustained heavy losses, and often did not get through to the city.
     The Jewish leadership, under David Ben-Gurion, feared that the city would surrender to the Arab Legion, and a search for a way to bypass the Arab blockade commenced. Several Israeli attempts to take the Arab Legion's position in Latrun failed. It was noticed that that Arab sniper fire from the Latrun fort could be avoided by building another road allowing truck convoys to reach Jerusalem. When 150 troops moved on foot from Hulda to a point near the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, that suggested that it would be possible to modify the "gazelle path" they had found and to be hidden from the Latrun fort.
     The major problem was a very steep section at the beginning of the ascent. After 2 weeks some supplies came through using mules and 200 men from the Home Guard to cover three miles which were impassable to vehicles.
     Three weeks later, the steepest section was opened to vehicles, though they needed assistance from tractors to get up it. The road allowed passage of a convoy without leaving the vehicles, in time for a UN-imposed cease fire. Water and fuel pipes were laid alongside the road. Thus the western section of Jerusalem remained in Jewish hands from then until the total liberation of the city by Israel in 1967.[1]

     From the Burma Road, we drove to Abu Ghosh, an Arab town on the outskirts of Jerusalem for a lunch of humus, shawarma and pita bread.

     “During Israel’s war of Independence in 1968, out of all the Arab village in the area, only the residents of Abu Ghosh remained neutral and, in many cases, helped Israel by keeping the road to Jerusalem open so that essential supplies could be sent to the besieged Jewish residents of the city. To this day, relations between the village of Abu Ghosh and the Jewish community of Israel remain friendly and cooperative.”
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     “{Abu Ghosh} has several excellent restaurants. If the word hummus is mentioned, Abu Ghosh immediately comes to mind as it is known as the hummus center with its different varieties of garnishes and spices . . .” (Ref. 2)

     Abu Ghosh is a small Arabic town that is nestled in the Judean hills just minutes from Jerusalem. Most Israelis stop by Abu Ghosh mainly for its delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. But Abu Ghosh is much more than a place to eat on the way to Jerusalem! It has beautiful views, Crusaders churches, the second largest mosque in Israel, ancient history and the largest ?vocal music festival in Israel.
     Thousands of vocal music fans flock to Abu Ghosh twice year for a few days to enjoy music concerts and festivities. The concerns take place during the Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles) holidays.
     In 2020, Abu Ghosh had about 7,000 residents. Most are Muslims but there are Christians and even Jews, all living side together peacefully. The village of Abu Ghosh is considered a model of coexistence.
     Abu Ghosh people were known for their great pride and wealth. For hundreds of years, the Abu-Gosh tribes controlled the road from the seaport of Jaffa to Jerusalem and imposed a 'traveler's tax' on all pilgrims passing through. They were given this 'privilege' by Sultan Selim's son, Suleiman the Magnificent who built the walls surrounding the old city of Jerusalem.
     The New Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque in Abu Ghosh was completed in 2014 and is second in size after the Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. The beautiful mosque catches the eye of anyone traveling on the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, especially at night, with its four tall minarets towers illuminated in green light. Just near the mosque is one of the most magnificent hidden treasures of the Holy Land, the Benedictine Monastery of St. Mary built in 1141 by the Crusaders.
     Abu Ghosh is considered by many to be the site of Emmaus, mentioned in Luke in the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem, who met with and supped with a stranger who was the resurrected Jesus. In the basement crypt is the original spring that gave life to the ancient village that was first established there 10,000 years ago. One can also see a sign left by the Romans who visited there.
     There is another impressive church in Abu Gosh at the top of the hill, Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant Church. On the rooftop is a sculpture of Mary carrying the infant Jesus in her arms. At the base of the statue is the Ark of the Covenant with cherub wings. In Christian tradition, Mary carrying Jesus is compared to the Ark holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Abu Ghosh is considered by many to be the Biblical site of Kiryat Ye'arim where the Ark of Covenant resided for 20 years.
     There are dozens of restaurants along the main road in Abu Ghosh serving distinctive Abu Ghosh hummus, stews, chickens stuffed with rice and pine nuts, all kinds of skewered meats and classic Arabic sweets. The restaurants compete with each other claiming to be the best in Abu Ghosh.[3]

     The meal my wife, my grandson and I enjoyed in Abou Ghosh after our visit to Latrun and the bumpy ride over the Burma Road was excellent. A visit to this Arab town outside Jerusalem will be well worth your time and effort, especially if you are a humus aficionado.

  1. Burma Road (Israel), Wikipediia, Accessed 4 October 2022.
  2. Abu Ghosh, All about Israel, Accessed 4 October 2022.
  3. Abu Ghosh in the Judean Hills,, 2020.

  27 December 2022 {Article_558; Israel_73}    
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