JERUSALEM — During the Six-Day War in June 1967, 36 Israeli soldiers and 71 Jordanian soldiers fell into a fierce and pivotal battle on Ammunition Hill in northern Jerusalem.
The hill has since been preserved as a national heritage center and memorial site for those who died in the conflict between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Each year it hosts thousands of visitors. During the coronavirus pandemic, however, the site has remained dormant — and something amazing happened.
“Nature, uninterrupted by tens of thousands of feet for 10 months, rose up like a waking giant and reconquered the hill,” Alon Wald, director of operations at Ammunition Hill, said. “But this time, there is no losing side.”
Observing the unprecedented burst of wildflowers and birds across the 15-acre site, Wald was inspired to post a message to several photography social-media groups.
“I sent out a call to anyone who has a good heart and a good lens and loves Jerusalem that if you want to come, I’ll open the site for you,” he said.
From across Israel, 32 talented photographers responded to Wald’s call, resulting in nearly 200 poignant images. Admirers can vote through the end of January on which ones will be printed, enlarged and exhibited at Ammunition Hill.
“Life carries on”
Most of the photographers requested to come to the site at dawn. Wald, who lives an hour away in Rehovot, willingly left home at 5 a.m. every day for about a week to open Ammunition Hill to small groups of photographers at a time.
“Some asked to come back again at sundown, and I said, ‘By all means.’ I wanted them to show Ammunition Hill as it was never seen before: the combination of nature, man and steel bonded together forever,” he said.
Wald’s father, Captain Rami Wald, was one of the paratroopers killed in the Battle of Ammunition Hill on June 6, 1967, in an area of the hill dubbed the Triangle of Death.
“Now the Triangle of Death is all green and full of flowers,” said Wald, who was 10 months old when his father died. “This beautifully symbolizes my message — my mother’s message to me — that life carries on. We are saying through the lens that life goes on in a place that symbolizes sacrifice and war.”
Photographer Shani Naki dedicated one of her images to Wald’s personal story. She asked him for a red paratrooper beret and set it on a rock alongside a baby toy and a photo of Rami holding Alon before heading to battle.
Another of the photographers, Danni Gal, did not fight on Ammunition Hill, but he was one of the liberators of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
Wald said all the photos “surprised and moved us.”
He anticipates that the site will soon reopen to the public.
(Edited by Carlin Becker and David Martosko)
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