Yad La-Shiryon: Israel’s Tank Museum

Yad La-Shiryon is Israel’s main tank museum.  Although the Musée des Blindés in France, with over 800 tanks, is the largest tank museum in the world, Yad La-Shiryon’s smaller collection of 160 tanks still ranks among the largest tank museums in the world.  This is because no other tank museum has even half the number of tanks as France has.

Yad La-Shiryon means “hand” or “monument” of armor. It is also known as the Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum, and is located in Latrun, which is a hill in the Ayalon valley between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  After the British Mandate of Palestine ended in 1948, this area fell under Jordanian rule.  However, Israel took control of this strategic location during the Six Day War of 1967.  Going back to ancient times, the Ayalon Valley is mentioned in the Bible in Joshua chapter 10 as the location of a battle between Moses’ successor, Joshua, and several local kings.  According to this chapter, after Joshua prayed, God stopped the sun in the sky so that Joshua had enough time to win the battle.

During the British Mandate of Palestine, after WWI, the British built a police station on Latrun, because it provided a clear view of the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  In 1982, Israel decided to convert the former police station into a museum dedicated to its fallen armored forces.  Today, you can watch a movie about the history of tank warfare in Israel inside of the museum.  Apparently, there is also a small synagogue and library in the building, but I did not notice either of these when I was there.

The primary attraction at Yad La-Shiryon is its 160 military tanks.  These include all of the different types that Israel has used throughout the years (such as the Merkava) as well as tanks from other parts of the world, such as Britain, Russia, and the United States.  However, the tanks that I found the most interesting were the two Nazi Panzers.  Israel owning Nazi tanks is interesting enough, but how they obtained them was what made them fascinating.  Initially, the Russian Red Army captured them from Germany during WWII.  Afterwards, Russia sold them to Syria.  Israel then captured them from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967.  Clearly, the tanks passed through a lot of completely different hands.

Nazi Panzer at Yad La-Shiryon

All of the tanks at Yad La-Shiryon are parked just outside of the former British police station.  Each tank has a sign next to it, written in both Hebrew and English, describing its history.  The best part about the tank exhibit is that visitors are allowed to climb on top of the tanks.  Yad La-Shiryon is definitely worth a visit for military history fans.  In 2019, it was announced that another museum will be built on Latrun as well, so perhaps there will be even more history to see there soon.  This museum will be dedicated to all of the Jewish soldiers who fought under the Allied forces during WWII, as well as those who worked in the underground against the Nazis.

Sources and Further Reading

“About the Collection.” Yad LaShiryon. https://yadlashiryon.com/yad-lashiryon/%d7%9e%d7%95%d7%96%d7%99%d7%90%d7%95%d7%9f-%d7%94%d7%a8%d7%a7%d7%9d/about-the-collection/ (accessed October 24, 2020).

Hacohen, Hagay. The Jerusalem Post. February 18, 2019. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/new-museum-to-honor-jewish-world-war-ii-fighters-to-open-in-latrun-581026 (accessed October 24, 2020).

Hecht, Aaron. “Latrun – The Battle for Latrun.” The Jerusalem Post. September 8, 2009. https://www.jpost.com/israel-guide/tel-aviv-and-center-tours/latrun-the-battle-for-latrun (accessed October 24, 2020).

Musée des Blindés. https://www.museedesblindes.fr/en/ (accessed October 24, 2020).