Sha'ar HaGai in Hebrew, or Bab al-Wad in Arabic (Hebrew: שער הגיא or Hebrew: באב אל-ואד, Arabic: باب الواد or Arabic: باب الوادي), lit. Gate of the Valley in both languages, is a point on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, 23 km from Jerusalem, where the road begins to ascend into a gorge between cliffs, named in Arabic Wadi Ali.
During the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and into the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, this area and the nearby police fort at Latrun saw fierce fighting between Arab forces and Jewish convoys on the way to blockaded Jerusalem. Bab al-Wad changed hands between the so-called Arab Liberation Army supported by Arab irregulars, and Jewish Palmach and Haganah units, until April 20 1948, when the Arabs recaptured the heights around Bab al-Wad closing off the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road.
From mid-May 1948 on, the fort at Latrun, only 2 kilometres west of Bab al-Wad, was held by the very efficient, British-trained and commanded army of Transjordan, the so-called Arab Legion. The Palmach's 10th (Harel) brigade under the command of Lt. Col. Yitzhak Rabin, future prime minister of Israel, managed to capture Bab al-Wad itself, but the road section west of it, controlled from Latrun, remained in Jordanian hands until 1967, cutting off this main access route to Jerusalem. In order to bypass the Arab-held bottleneck, the Israelis constructed the so-called "Burma Road", named after the famous World War II road into China. This very steep bypass road was in use during the first, crucial part of the war, being replaced after just six months by a longer but safer detour route.
After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when the Latrun area was captured by Israel, the main Tel Aviv–Jerusalem highway was once again constructed on the shortest route past Latrun and Sha'ar HaGai. Today's already four-lane wide Highway 1 is currently (2014) being widened due to increasing traffic, by further carving into the slopes of the Wadi Ali gorge.
To this day, the remains of armored cars that belonged to Jewish convoys and were destroyed during the 1948 war are lining the route as a memorial to the war dead.
In a park south of the main road is the Mahal Memorial Monument, which commemorates the ca. 4000 Jewish and non-Jewish military volunteers who came from abroad to help with the creation of the Jewish state in 1947–48, of which 119 lost their lives during the war.
The battles of 1948 were commemorated by a Hebrew song, Bab al-Wad, with words by Haim Gouri and music by Shmuel Fershko. The song has been performed by numerous famous Israeli singers, such as Yafa Yarkoni, Shoshana Damari, Shlomo Gronich, and Harel Skaat. The song has four verses, with the fourth verse spoken before the final chorus.
Here I walk silently
And I remember them, every single one
Here we fought, together, over cliffs and boulders
Here we were to one family
Bab al Wad
Forever do remember our names
As convoys broke through to the city
On the roadsides lie our dead
The iron hulk as silent as my comrade
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sha'ar HaGai.|
- Text of song in Romanized Hebrew, English, and Italian
- Detailed map of central Israel showing location
- Description of the location now, including photo