Israel’s 1948 Burma Road
The Burma Road was a hastily constructed bypass formed during Israel’s War of Independence. It was created to provide the Jews of Jerusalem which were under siege, with vital water and other supplies. It was named after the mountainous road formed by the Allied forces in Burman during the Second World War. Today the Burma Road traverses through forests of the Judean Foothills (the Shephelah), offering a great off-road tour experience in the heart of Israel.
History of Burma Road
When the 1948 Israeli Arab war broke out, among others the road to Jerusalem was blocked, by Jordanian forces. They captured the British stronghold of Latrun and set cannons on its eastern ridge. Five attempts of Jewish forces to conquer Latrun failed, and the lives of 100,000 Jews in Jerusalem were at risk, being under siege. Finding an alternative route, circumventing Latrun and the Jordanian artillery, was crucial. A detour was eventually found by Palmach soldiers navigating in the area. It traversed through a hidden valley south of Latrun, connecting to a path descending from Jerusalem. Heavy tractors made the path navigable for trucks, and a water pipeline was installed along it. The lifeline to the Jews in Jerusalem was secured, providing vital water and other supplies in the following summer months.
How the Israeli Burma Road (and Its Name) Were Formed
The camouflaged path to Jerusalem was found by chance, by a Jewish soldier, who was given permission to walk to Tel-Aviv, if he could find a safe path. He found one, and reported it upon reaching Tel-Aviv. Later the footpath was developed so trucks could drive through it, and vital supplies could reach the Jewish population in Jerusalem again. An American journalist who followed these events nicknamed it the Burma Road (of Israel). Eventually it became its official name, which is indeed a bit confusing
Touring Burma Road
The full course of Israel’s 1948 Burma road lies between Moshav Beqoa and Beit Meir, where it joins road 1. Some parts of the road are accessible only by all terrain vehicles. However, the section between Har’el lookout and the Serpentines is well paved, as well as the section east of route no. 38. The winding road passes through scenic landscapes of pine tree forests and vineyards. Bronze sculptures spread along the road illustrate the dramatic events taking place here during Israel’s War of Independence.
Today, some parts of the ‘Burma Road’ are paved, but others are still a dirt road. Especially challenging, even for an off-road car, is the section nicknamed The serpentines. Here, the dirt road is quite steep. Along the road, a section of a water pipe can also be seen. It was places also in 1948, to insure a water supply to the Jewish parts of Jerusalem.
- See a video presentation of ‘Burma Road’ by ‘Danny the Digger’, here.