A Quiet Corner of Motza

Seven Sisters Road

Top of Seven Sisters Road Near MotzaHere in Israel, you still can find long and winding road.

The Seven Sisters Road was built during the time of the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948).

The Seven Sisters Road takes you to A Quiet Corner in Motza. There are supposed to be seven sharp bends in the road that that is the source of the name. Don’t even try counting. The arguments are endless. One of the many popular stories behind the name is that drivers in a Scottish regiment, serving in Mandatory Palestine, found that the road and terrain were similar to a place somewhere in Scotland with the same name.

But here’s another tale, this time a more amusing one: truck drivers of the Palmach drove this road on their way to Jerusalem during the pre-state period. Finding difficulty with passing those seven bends with their big, heavy trucks, the drivers would angrily swear by uttering the name of someone’s sister along with the popular Arabic curses every time they would come to every bend of the road.

a bend of the road
Seven Sisters Road, 1948

The Seven Sisters Road has earned a reputation for being a hairy road. But at the time, it was the only way for vehicles coming from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If you look at its early black-and-white pictures, the road looks quite bleak. However, recent color photos show vegetation on the roadside that made the whole scene somewhat more relaxing and pleasing to the eyes.

The road starts at the Castel in Maoz Zion – a site famous for the 1948 battle for control of the road to Jerusalem – winds through Motza, passing what was once the historic Arza convalescent home. In 1898, journalist and writer Theodor Herzl, during a visit to the Holy Land, planted his famous tree at this site. The tree was supposed to be a cedar (“erez” in Hebrew, and so “Arza”), but in fact it was a cypress. But why spoil a good story with facts?

Anyway, the tree became a site for Zionist pilgrimages. Zionist youths would plant more trees around Herzl’s tree. But  a few years later, Herzl’s tree was cut down by the Turks who were leveling forests for firewood and other supplies

It was David Remez (the country’s first Minister of Transportation) who named the sanatorium in Motza as “Arza,” in reference to Herzl’s tree. Arza, which was established in the 1920s, was the first-ever Jewish “health resort” in the country.

Tritza (of blessed memory), who was the pre-kindergarten teacher in Motza for as long back as anyone can remember, walked the children up to Arza and – standing in front of the stump – gave them a good dose of Zionist education and a real love of nature.  Our kids fondly remember those rainy-day hikes of many years ago. Unfortunately, Arza has fallen victim to “progress” and a posh new neighborhood is being built on the site.

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