While everyone is preoccupied with the Hamas tunnels in Gaza, Israel continues to dig under Palestinian houses in Jerusalem. The excuses are questionable, residents are angry and fearful, and a religious conflagration appears imminent.
By Orly Noy
With the Hamas tunnels dominating the Israeli narrative for the past several weeks, their inherent danger horrifying the entire state and sometimes leading to apocalyptic visions, the state of Israel persistently continued digging its own underground tunnels – in Jerusalem.
These tunnels, like those of Hamas, are being dug under a heavy cloak of secrecy. As with the Hamas tunnels, they serve as a tool for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are also being dug under the houses of uninvolved civilians, in this case Palestinians. However, while the Hamas tunnels are described as serving terrorist purposes, these tunnels have been authorized by the Supreme Court of Israel, and all the relevant arms of the state have been mobilized in their support.
What follows is a conversation with archaeologist Yonatan Mizrahi from Emek Shaveh, an organization that focuses on the role of archaeology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about what is going on underground in one of the world’s most volatile places, the historical heart of Jerusalem.
Bags of cement at the entrance to the tunnel on the main street of Silwan. (photo: Emek Shaveh)
Is it correct to say that these underground excavations in Jerusalem, especially in the area of the Historic Basin, are not a new development?
Yes, that is correct. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th centrury underground tunnels were dug as part of archaeological excavations. It was a method of excavation, for various reasons. Toward the beginning of the 20th century it became clear that this practice was very problematic as a research tool, and starting in the second decade of the 20th century the Silwan excavations reverted to an orderly method, from the top down, exposing strata, as we all know. Since that time archaeologists have no longer dug tunnels; it is no longer part of the modus operandi.
When was the digging of tunnels resumed?
After the state of Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem it introduced many...Read More