Latroon, a Surprisingly Charming Area
Tourists in Israel sometimes get the weird feeling that they can throw a rock in Israel and not hit a historical monument. There is a certain truth to it, Israel has been so important to so many for such a long time that it is quite impossible to know about everything. Some sites get lots of attention: Jerusalem for religion, Tel Aviv for hangouts, but some of the most amazing spots are never mentioned.
Latroon is just one of those places. In the bible it appears as the setting for one of Joshua’s most epic battles and an important spot in the way to Jerusalem, in the 13th century B.C., and it played a similar role in the Israeli fight for independence more than three millennia later. Today it is home to one of Israel’s most treasured monasteries, an ancient pilgrim castle, one of the most significant memorial sites for the Israeli army and even an international center for bird migration. And too think you wouldn’t have known… But that’s why we’re here.
Yad Lashiryon, The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum, is not your usual war museum. First of all, Israel is very proud of its tanks, and this museum has got all the tanks Israel ever had. It has over 200 different decommissioned tanks which you can actually climb, and it uses them to tell some of the most interesting stories of the ingenious ways in which they were used (for instance, one of the most amazing stories is of a commander that managed to scare off big enemy forces using just 7 malfunctioning tanks by shooting at the air). The museum is set inside a fort built by the British in 1940, which is beautiful in its own right.
The Trappist Monastery
The Trappist Monastery in Latroon is one of the most unique institutions in the area. A Trappist monastery, for those who do not know, is a monastery whose monks took a vow of silence, which makes it a very special place to visit. the Trappist Monastery is easy to reach from Latroon, as well as impressive to visit.
The monastery was erected in a spot which is close by to the ancient city of Emmaus (where Jesus spoke to passersby after his resurrection from death), as well as the small modern village that occupies its remains. While the monastery itself is not impressively decorated (as the Franciscans rarely decorate their monasteries), a signal statue of the holy virgin handing a golden cross to her son is perhaps made all the more significant by the lack of all other decorations.
What to see: Birds! Latroon is very famous amongst birdwatchers because it stands in the middle of one of the most active migration paths that birds take. For more info visit the Bird Migration Center in Latroon.
Where to eat: Asa Steak House is the most popular non-Kosher restaurant in all of Israel, and it stands in the gas station and parking lot of the main Latroon crossroad. Come here if you want some good meat.
Where to stay: Though there are no hotels in Latroon itself, it is very close to Jerusalem. Consider King David hotel, renowned for its luxurious design and great service, is located just outside the ancient city and has a beautiful view of it. King David 23, Jerusalem.