An Israeli Memorial Day Project, Photographing the Burma Road

The War of Independence in 1948 was a pivotal moment in Israel's history, as the fledgling nation fought for its survival against hostile Arab forces. One of the key challenges faced by the Jewish forces was the blockade of the roads to Jerusalem, which cut off the city's population from essential supplies and reinforcements.  In response to this dire situation, the construction of the Burma Road was undertaken, with the goal of creating a hidden route to transport vital resources to Jerusalem and break the blockade. The route would be obscured from the Arab Legion's firing position in nearby Latrun which made it impossible to use the regular route to Jerusalem. 



The challenges faced in constructing the Burma Road were immense. The terrain was difficult, with steep sections and narrow passages that required extensive modification to accommodate vehicular traffic. Initially, mules and 200 men from the Home Guard were used to transport supplies on foot for three miles of impassable terrain. These men, mostly conscripts in their fifties, carried heavy loads of 45 pounds each and made the treacherous journey twice a night for five nights.

On the night of May 30-31,1948, the first attempt to use vehicles failed when a jeep overturned. Despite this setback, the road was slightly improved, and a second attempt on the following night succeeded. On the night of June 1-2, a group from Jerusalem arrived in three jeeps, and the jeep party went on to Tel Aviv to organize a supply convoy for Jerusalem, which returned that night. However, the road was still challenging to navigate, and vehicles had to be pushed by hand through long sections. Supplies were brought to Jerusalem using porters and donkeys, while bulldozers and road workers worked tirelessly to move critical parts of the road out of the line of sight of Jordanian artillery and widen it. Despite facing constant threats from Arab sharpshooters and attacks, the determination of the builders of the Burma Road remained unwavering.


Three weeks later, on June 10, the steepest section of the road was finally opened to vehicles, although they still needed assistance from tractors to ascend. This allowed the passage of a convoy without leaving the vehicles, just in time for the UN-imposed ceasefire. However, the road still required repair as the vehicular passage opened new potholes. It was not until June 14 that the Burma Road was completed, with water and fuel pipes laid alongside it. The road became the sole supply route for several months, until the opening of the Valor Road (Kvish Hagevurah).

The impact of the Burma Road on the War of Independence cannot be overstated. It was a lifeline for the Jewish forces in Jerusalem, allowing them to transport essential supplies, including food, medicine, and weapons, that were critical for their survival. Despite facing numerous challenges and attacks, the builders of the Burma Road demonstrated immense courage, determination, and ingenuity in creating this hidden route to bypass the blockade and provide crucial support to Jerusalem. Without this vital supply route, it is unlikely that Israel would have been able to withstand the Arab blockade and emerge victorious. 


Today, the Burma Road is accessible to visitors and it's a great place to experience relaxing Israeli nature scenes, beautiful views, and luscious vineyards that run alongside endless pine forests while experiencing and learning about the rich history of the site and the events that transpired here. Along the trail, you'll find mock cars and trucks as well as soldier figurines to further enhance the experience. You'll also find picnic benches, viewpoints, and playground equipment throughout the forest making it a great place to visit with your family. The Burma Road was an easy choice for me when thinking about locations I should photograph in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron. 


The Burma Road remains an important reminder of the determination and bravery displayed by Israel's forces during the War of Independence. Despite facing numerous challenges, the construction of the hidden route was crucial in supplying essential resources to Jerusalem and breaking the blockade. The builders of the Burma Road overcame tremendous obstacles and risked their lives to create this vital supply route that played a significant role in Israel's victory. Today, the road stands as a testament to the courage and resilience of the Jewish people during one of the most pivotal moments in their history. Visitors can now experience the beauty of the area and learn about the rich history of the site while paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. As we observe Israel Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, we honor the memories of those who fought for our freedom and pay tribute to the heroes who made the Burma Road a symbol of hope and perseverance.