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There are two theories about the origin of the name of Latrun;
1) a corruption of the crusaders' name for a stronghold in the area, "Le toron des chevaliers" (the Castle of the Knights).
2) The name of the stronghold given by the Christian pilgrims, "Castellum bonu Latronis" (the fortress of the good thief), for the thief who was crucified alongside Jesus (Lucas 23:40-43).
The Latrun sector is situated in the Ayalon Valley at a very strategic point throughout history. Here, the road from the Mediterranean coast split in two directions, both to Jerusalem: one through Sha'ar haGay (today the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem), the other more northwards, via Beit Horon.
It was in this area that Joshua defeated the Amorites (Joshua 10:1-11); King David smote the Philistines; the Egyptians the Maccabees and the Crusaders battled their way to Jerusalem. During the War of Independence in 1948, the bloodiest combat between Israeli and the Arab armies took place for control of the route to the beleaguered Israeli forces in Jerusalem.
The Police Station
The Latrun Police station was erected in 1941-1942 by the British on a low hill, but affording a good view on this strategic area.
After the withdrawal of the British Army on 14.5.1948, the station was handed by the British to the Arab Legion, as with many other important and strategic places. On 15.5.1948, two battalions of the Israeli Army tried to capture the station, but disorder and confusion, reigned and the advantage of the darkness was lost. This operation, called "operation Ben Nun" failed; 74 Jewish soldiers fell in this battle.
In another attempt on 30.5.1948, called "operation Ben Nun B", the attackforce was accompanied by armored forces, but they entered mine fields, and this attempt also failed: 31 soldiers lost their lives.
After this second attempt, an alternative route to Jerusalem was discovered and constructed, known as the Burma Road, located south of the road through Sha'ar Hagay.
Under command of the American volunteer Brigadier General David Marcus, the station of Latrun was attacked in the night of 8-9 of June 1948, from the eastern side of the site, in "Operation Yoram". This operation also failed because an orientation fail by a company commandant.
On 16.7.1948, during a campaign against Jordanian strongholds in the Ayalon Valley, two Palmach battalions attacked the Latrun Police Station and failed, 19 soldiers fell.
On 18.7.1948, a last attempt was made to conquer the station. A file of armored cars pressed forward as preparation for a infantry assault, but communication problems forced them to retreat, and the attack was canceled. No lives were lost, but at the end of the Independence War, the station was still in the hands of the Jordanian Legion.
According to the cease-fire agreement,s the Tel-Aviv - Jerusalem road which was controlled by the station, was to be open to Israeli traffic. This agreement was never respected by the Jordanian,s so an alternative and longer route was used until the Six Day War.
Between 1948 and 1967, the Latrun station was involved in some shouting incidents designed to hinder Israelis farming their fields.
On 6.6.1967, at the beginning of the Six Day War, the Latrun station was conquered by the Harel Brigade, after being abandoned by the Jordanian Legion because of heavy Israeli tank fire.
Today, the station is a memorial site for the armored and tank forces, and a armored force Museum has been established whith a highly varied exhibition of about 120 armored battle vehicles, an audio-video hall, with films collection on armored forces, a computerized remembrance station for Armored Corps commanders, heroes and casualties.
A modern amphitheater was built, in it Armored Corps conventions and assemblies are be held:
The monastery was established in 1890 by the Trappist Order, and subsequently known as the Monastery of Silence.
During the First World War, the Turks expelled the monks and destroyed the monastery. The Monks returned in 1927, when they built the present building. The clock tower of the church was completed only in 1954.
The Latrun Monastery became famous for the good wine and olive oil it produces, which are available from a small shop run by the monks.
In the monastery garden, there is a collection of archaeological finds from the area, one of them a inscription mentioning the Fifth Legion of Rome (Macedonia) that took part in the suppression of the great Jewish revolt in 69 C.E., and the Bar Kochba revolt in 132-135 C.E.
The garden also has a building with a sloping roof, and a wooden balcony, which is the Maccabee Guest House, built in 1861 by Batat, a Christian from Jerusalem. It served as a hostel for the first Trappists who arrivede.
Because of economical problems, Batat had tried to sell the place to Jewish pioneers, who wanted to establish a village, but the negotiations foundered and in 1890 the Monks bought the Guest house with the grounds and built the monastery
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