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The Qatamon Medal

The Qatamon Medal


Qatamon is a neighborhood in today’s West Jerusalem that was founded and built by Palestinians in the 1920s and 1930s. In the war of 1948, the neighborhood was ethnically cleansed, its Palestinians driven out and never allowed to return (see The West Side Story). But not before the Arab forces defending Qatamon, led by Ibrahim Abu Dayah from Hebron, put up a fierce defense over many days, which entailed fierce street-by-street battles and many casualties. 

The extent to which Qatamon’s defeat was viewed by the fledgling State of Israel as a serious military operation and consequential victory is suggested by the minting, in 1948, of the “Medal of Qatamon,” shown here. The Qatamon (or Katamon) Medal was instituted in 1948 and awarded to Jewish soldiers who participated in the fierce battle for the neighborhood, part of Operation Yevusi. Indeed, Qatamon was viewed as the key to taking the entirety of the western side of Jerusalem.

The medal is round, 1.10 inches in diameter, and was minted in silver and bronze editions. It was attached to a blue-and-white ribbon through a metal loop at the top. On its face are depicted the Tower of David and the Jewish Agency; the Hebrew text around the perimeter is for the Psalm verse that translates, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand be forgotten.”

On the back, in Hebrew is written “the conquest of Qatamon, Jerusalem 22 Nissan 5708,”  and in English, “1.5.1948” [May 1, 1948]. 

Although the medal was instituted in July 1948 and began to be given out in July 1949, the army withdrew its recognition of the medal very shortly thereafter. It was discontinued and forgotten, but for those interested in the history of the West Side Story, it seems worth resurrecting.1



David T. Alexander, “Katamon Medal of Jewish Sovereignty,”  Coin World website, June 27, 2015.

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