Mount Castel rises 790 meters above sea level. The settlement of Mivasseret Zion was built on the mountain and the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway runs nearby. Some historians identity this area with Efron, mentioned in the Bible as a city bordering on the lands belonging to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Joshua 15:9). During the Roman period, a fortress was built on the summit to guard the route to Jerusalem; during Crusader times, the Belvoir Fortress took its place.
The Castel is known primarily for the role it played during the 1948 War of Independence, when it was the battleground for the struggle over the route to Jerusalem. In the wake of the fierce resistance displayed by the Jewish forces, the Castel became a symbol of warfare for the command posts.
The Jewish troops first took Mount Castel on the night of April 2, 1948, without a battle. The Arab forces understood the military significance of the place and concentrated hundreds of soldiers for an attack on the mountain and its command posts. The battle lasted five rainy days, with the Arab troops shelling, shooting, and attacking ceaselessly. On the night of April 7, the Palmah forces were surrounded on the hilltop, after repulsing close-range attacks.
Abd-el-Qader el-Husseini, the Arab commander of the area, was killed during this battle, leading to disarray among the Arab ranks. Rumor had it that el-Husseini had been taken prisoner, and the next day the Arab troops renewed their attack, in a campaign to free him. The defense forces and recently arrived reinforcements had no option but to retreat. Seventeen members of the Palmah and 27 combat troops - the majority of the Jewish forces - died in battle.
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