Black Arrow Memorial

The lookout point at the Black Arrow Memorial. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.
The lookout point at the Black Arrow Memorial. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

A historic trip to the Black Arrow Memorial and the Armistice Commission building.

  • How to get there

    From Sderot drive south to Gavish Junction (Route no. 34) and turn right on to Route no. 232 heading towards Miflasim. Continue for about 3 kilometers then turn right following the signs to the Black Arrow Memorial, which lies some 300 meters beyond the turnoff. Before you reach the memorial you will see a pumping station that belonged to the first water pipeline to the Negev, with the Armistice Commission building on the left.
  • Please note

    The Black Arrow Monument is situated only 900 meters from the border with the Gaza Strip. Under normal conditions the site is open to the general public. Under all other circumstances please follow the instructions of the security forces.
  • Geographic location-

    Western Negev
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

  • Season-

  • Duration-

    1-2 hours
  • Features-

    Scenic, Picnic, History and art, Disabled-accessible

    The Black Arrow Monument is a large memorial site that commemorates the battle heritage of the Paratroop Brigade that fought in reprisal operations in response to enemy infiltrations into Israel in the years leading up to the Sinai Campaign of 1956. Close by are the old Armistice Commission building, an attractive KKL-JNF recreation area and a site that commemorates the first water pipeline to the Negev.
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.

The recreation area

KKL-JNF recently upgraded the recreation area adjacent to the memorial. Picnic tables – some disabled-accessible – in the shade of eucalyptus and Jerusalem pine trees, playground equipment, drinking water and accessible toilet facilities are all available for the use of visitors. Trees in memory of soldiers who fell in the Gaza sector in recent years have been planted in the recreation area.

General background

In the 1950s and 1960s Israel suffered loss of lives and property damage from infiltrators from neighboring countries, and the IDF conducted military reprisal operations as a deterrent. Between the end of the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign of 1956, over five hundred Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks, and over a thousand others were injured. Commando Unit 101 – which took its name from a British guerilla unit founded by Orde Charles Wingate in Ethiopia and Eritrea – was established in August 1953 to provide a military response. The unit carried out cross-border patrols and operations for five months until it merged with the 890th Paratroop Battalion.

In 1989 a group of 890th Battalion veterans established a lookout point in memory of their commander, Captain Saadia Elkayam (“Supapo”), who fell in battle during a reprisal operation in Gaza on February 28th, 1955. One year later the Black Arrow Association was founded by paratroopers who belonged to the reprisal-raid generation; Black Arrow was the IDF code name for the Gaza operation in which Elkayam fell. Working together with Shaar HaNegev Regional Council and KKL-JNF, the Association transformed the Black Arrow site into an impressive memorial that perpetuates the memory and legacy of the fallen paratroopers and tells the story of the reprisal operations.

The Black Arrow Memorial

The memorial takes the form of a large plaza overlooking the northern Gaza Strip – Beit Hanun, Beit Lahiya, Jebaliya and Gaza City – and the Israeli Gaza Periphery communities. On both sides of the plaza in front of the lookout point are hewn rock columns on which the details of the paratroopers’ reprisal raids are inscribed. A separate memorial commemorates those who fell in the reprisal raids and the Sinai campaign. Three different points at the side offer audio-explanations of the general background to the retaliatory actions and operations in Jordan and the Gaza Strip.

At the far end of the memorial, which overlooks Gaza, a stone slab shaped like an arrowhead displays a map of Operation Black Arrow. This area of the monument is dedicated to the memory of Saadia Elkayam (“Supapo”), who commanded Company A of the 890th Paratroop Battalion.

The Black Arrow Memorial commemorates the following operations, which constitute only a portion of those carried out by the paratroopers during this period:

Kissufim: Operation An Eye for an Eye (Mivtza Ayin Tahat Ayin), August 10th, 1954. The object of the operation was the capture of an Egyptian position opposite Kissufim that was enclosed inside two double-slope fences, ditches and minefields. The Israeli force captured the position and blew up the buildings inside it, at the cost of the lives of two paratroopers.

Gaza: Operation Black Arrow (Mivtza Hetz Shahor), February 28th - March 1st, 1955. During this major reprisal operation the commandos attacked Egyptian positions that had served as departure points for terrorists and blew up Gaza’s railway station and waterworks. The Egyptians lost thirty-six soldiers and two civilians (most of them Palestinians), and the commandos lost eight men.

Khan Yunis: Operation Elkayam (Mivtza Elkayam), August 31st, 1955. The Tegart fort that housed the Khan Yunis police station was blown up in this first armored paratroop operation, which made use of half-tracks. Apart from the police station, a railway line and buildings in the village of Abbasan were also blown up. Seventy-two Egyptians and one Israeli commando were killed.

Kuntilla: Operation Egged (Mivtza Egged), October 27th, 1955. The paratroop battalion raided the police station and surrounding positions by night, blew up the police station and returned to Israel with twenty-nine prisoners. Twelve Egyptians and two paratroopers were killed.

Sabha: Operation Volcano (Mivtza Har Gaash), November 2nd, 1955. This operation was carried out after the Egyptian army set up a position in the Nitzana sector within Israeli territory. Combat soldiers from the Golani Brigade also took part. The Israeli force attacked the Sabha positions to the west of Nitzana, killing some seventy Egyptians. Six IDF soldiers were killed.

Kinneret: Operation Olive Leaves (Mivtza Alei Zayit), December 11th, 1955. This operation was conducted against five Syrian military positions on the slopes of the Golan Heights leading down to the Kinneret. The official reason for the attack was Syrian fire on Kinneret fishing boats. The Israeli force approached the Syrian positions stealthily before launching a surprise attack. Approximately fifty-four Syrians were killed and thirty were taken prisoner for exchange with IDF soldiers in captivity in Syria and Jordan. Six IDF soldiers were killed in the attack.

Husan: Operation Palm Branch (Mivtza Lulav), September 25th, 1956. Two days previously Jordanian soldiers from the Mar Elias outpost had murdered four scientists participating in an archeological conference at Ramat Rachel, and the following day a woman from Moshav Aminadav was also murdered. The object of the raid, which was conducted on a brigade scale, was the capture of the police station adjacent to Husan. Thirty-nine Jordanian soldiers and ten paratroopers were killed during the operation.

Qalqilya: Operation Samaria (Mivtza Shomron), October 10th, 1956. After the murder of five Solel-Boneh workers on the Beersheba-Sodom highway and two citrus-grove workers near Tel Mond, the paratroopers set out to blow up Qalqilya police station. This was an extensive operation. After artillery and mortar fire a fierce battle ensued, during which the police station was blown up. The Hamisa force was surrounded and found itself in difficulties, and another force that set out to rescue it had a hard fight. In response to IDF shelling, the Jordanians shelled the nearby Israeli communities of Nir Eliyahu, Neveh Yamin and Eyal. Around eight-eight Jordanians and eighteen IDF soldiers were killed in the operation.

Sinai Campaign (Mivtza Kadesh): Throughout all the years of its existence the Paratroopers Brigade carried out only two operational parachute descents, both during the Sinai Campaign. One took place at the Mitla Pass (on October 30th, 1956), the other at Al-Tur (on November 2nd, 1956), in order to gain control of the airport there and open the road towards Sharm al-Sheikh. In the fierce battle at the Mitla Pass thirty-eight paratroopers were killed, and the site became a symbol for the brigade.

The first water pipeline to the Negev

At a bend in the dirt road leading to the Black Arrow Memorial a rusted metal standpipe bearing an explanatory sign commemorates the first water pipeline to the Negev. In 1947 Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, drilled fifteen wells in the area of Nir Am, and a 220-kilometer pipeline was laid from Nir Am to carry water to the three KKL-JNF outposts and the eleven “points” settled on KKL-JNF land at the end of Yom Kippur in 1946. The pipeline crossed this site on its way from Nir Am to Saad, before continuing to Beeri and all the other settlements along the route to Nirim.

The Armistice Commission building

The Armistice Commission building is a small structure consisting of an entrance hall and a single internal room. KKL-JNF renovated the building, which served as a venue for meetings between Israeli Armistice Commission delegations and representatives from Egypt, but most of the tiled roof now no longer exists. The building witnessed a number of important events: after Israel’s War of Independence it hosted talks on the armistice agreement with Egypt, which was signed in Rhodes; it served as a meeting place where Israelis and Egyptians could discuss infringements of agreements and settle their differences; the captives from the Bat Galim, the ship seized by the Egyptians after it attempted to pass through the Suez Canal in 1954, were returned to this spot; and the bodies of IDF soldiers who fell in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and other military operations were brought here, too.

KKL-JNF has planted an orchard near the building, and fig, pomegranate, carob, mulberry and almond trees all grow there. Some of the trees are dedicated to the memory of fallen IDF soldiers.