A tale of two tunnels

Guest blogger Dan Gordon, an IDF reservist from Arizona, sent us this post from Jerusalem.

I’m in Jerusalem today to do an interview on a Christian Television network about being a Sar-El volunteer and about a few things that the mainstream press doesn’t seem to want to cover. This is not a “G-d is on our side” thing, I promise you. 

It’s more in line with putting things in their proper historical perspective. To paraphrase Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in order to live in Israel, one has to be a realist; which is to say, one must believe in miracles.

For your consideration. Make of it what you will. 

A few days before the first terrorist tunnel attack, a group of religious Jews who make what is called matzah shmura for Pesach, were busy looking for very green wheat. Now this particular matzah that they make is made from special wheat, without blemish and is literally watched over, for every step of the process, from planting to harvest to grinding, to baking the final matzah for the Passover meal. The same meal that formed The Last Supper, commemorated by our Christian brothers and sisters.

Next year is a year is shmita, the seventh year in which the Bible commands us to literally let the land have a Sabbath, to let it rest, replenish itself. Oddly enough, today’s agronomists applaud the process as being ecologically sound. 

Because the land will lie fallow next year, these guys needed particularly green wheat, which could be stored for two years before being used to make the matzah. They found the wheat they were looking for in an agricultural community next to the Gaza border. They cut a deal with the farmers who sold them the wheat and they went out and harvested it all, so that the field , which had just held tall green wheat, was now completely barren.

A few short days later the field yielded an unexpected crop. 

 A homicide tunnel opened up and a dozen Hamas terrorists came out,  intent upon murdering and maiming, and taking captive dozens of Israeli men women and children, in what would, and, indeed, should have been for them, ” A Divine Victory.”

One can only imagine their dismay when they found that the field of tall green wheat , which was  to have been their camouflage, had been completely cut down! They were, thus, spotted immediately, and half of them killed and the other half driven back into Gaza by the IDF, thereby averting what would have been the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history. 

And all because some religious Jews were fulfilling a biblical commandment.

So I’m in Jerusalem and one of my dearest friends, Lt. Col. Danny Grossman, a highly decorated fighter pilot, makes me an offer I can’t refuse. Tonight is Tisha B’Av , It is one of the saddest days in the Jewish calendar, the worst luck day of the year. It commemorates the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, and of Jerusalem,  and the start of the Spanish inquisition. 

Some of the most traumatic events in the history of the Jewish people have occurred on this day and religious Jews gather at the Western wall, the remnant of the Holy Temple, to mourn and lament these disasters, in which millions of our people were slaughtered, our Temple, twice destroyed, and in which,the adversaries who sought to destroy us, seemed absolutely assured that the Jews were finally wiped off the face of the earth.

So Danny offers me a triple-header. First we’ll get to pay a visit to my girlfriend. My girlfriend is Danny’s 88-year-old mother, who plays a mean piano, sings the best bawdy songs of her own composition, and has a pixie smile that could light up the darkest night. I’ve told her on more than one occasion that if I was 30 years older, I’d be chasing her around the home with my walker. 

The second thing he offers is a tour of the tunnels under the Western Wall of the the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Amazingly after all the years I’ve lived in Israel and all the visits to Jerusalem, I’ve never been in the tunnels that run beneath the wall and bring you as close to the Holy of Holies as it’s possible for a Jew to get, since the Temple Mount is home now to the Al Aksa Mosque, and the sight of a Jew praying there, much less one in uniform, would literally set off a riot that could start the Third Intifada. 

 So we will visit this holiest spot of the underground portion of the Western Wall close to the sight of the Holiest of Holies, tens of meters above us.

The third part of his offer is to be at the Wall for the Tisha B’ Av  prayers. Of all the Jews there are on the earth, tonight my friend Danny and I will be amongst the few who will be able to represent our people and be a living strand of Jewish DNA, in a history of our people’s connection to Jerusalem, and this land, that stretches back thousands of years before Islam was born, and a thousand years before the birth of Christianity. 

We are the living tree of which both Islam and Christianity are branches.

 We go down into the tunnels under the wall. The tunnels were actually built by the Mamluke Muslims 700 years ago. They cover the original steps which led around the Temple and that portion of the Western Wall closest to the Holy of Holies. Our guide, a former IDF paratrooper, points something out on the wall. It seems the Mamlukes used what was basically 1,300-year-old garbage to construct the tunnels. 

They used the stones of a long-dead Roman Empire with which to build their wall. 


If you look closely, you can just make out the letters of one of the stones, which spell ” FRET,” short for Fretensis, which is the name of the 10th Roman legion. Photo by Dan Gordon

I take a picture. If you look closely you can just make out the letters of one of the stones. The letters are ” FRET” That is short for Fretensis which is the name of the 10th Roman legion. The 10th Roman Legion is the one which not only conquered Jerusalem. They also destroyed the Temple and slaughtered our people, with a thorough viciousness that would not be matched again in two thousand years, when another dictator built a Reich he was sure would last a millennia.

Several years later, this same Roman 10th Legion not only put down the Bar Kochba revolt, the last time the Jewish people were sovereign until the modern state of Israel,  but their leader also changed the name of Jerusalem to Ilya Capitolina and the name of Judea, to Palestine. This was meant to not only wipe out the Jewish people, but the last vestiges of our memory as well. 

There would be no Jerusalem. 

It would be wiped off the map. 

It’s very name would be erased.

There would be no Israel, no Judea, indeed no Jews. 

The greatest empire in the history of the world had finally crushed these stiff-necked , Hebrew speaking, monotheists, who worshiped the G-D of Abraham.

And yet here we were in that tunnel,looking at that scrap from the dust bin of history, all three of us speaking Hebrew, the language that was spoken here two thousand years ago, when the mightiest army in the history of the world was sure they had put an end to us. 

And here I am in the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces,and our guide,Yuval says, “These stones you are standing on are the actual steps that lead around the Temple. Your name, Dan, is the name of one of the 12 tribes. You speak in the same language that was spoken here two thousand years ago and if you give a piece of the Dead Sea scrolls to any Israeli high school student, he can read them. And where is the Roman legion now? And where are we?”

I have two photos of my foster father, Chanan, who served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army during WWII. It was the forerunner of the army whose uniform I so very proudly wear today. 

Hitler’s empire was going to last a thousand years and he would build his Reich, he was sure, on the graves of our people after making Europe Jew-Free. He was as sure of it, as the Roman 10th Legion, as sure of it as the Spanish Inquisition, as sure of it as  Hamas is of it’s next Divine Victory.

The first picture is of Chanan, with three other soldiers of the Jewish Brigade. They are holding an Israeli flag as they stand beneath the Arch of Titus, the arch Ceasar built to commemorate the ultimate victory over the Jews and the final destruction and sacking of Jerusalem, the city that would never rise again. And there Chanan and his fellow Hebrew soldiers are, not only still here, still speaking Hebrew, but victorious. And where is Titus?

The second picture is of Chanan and the same three other soldiers of the Brigade . They are standing in front of the Munich beer hall where a third-rate painter dreamt of a thousand-year Reich, built on our graves, in a Jew-Free Europe.By the time the picture was taken, Hitler was dead in his bunker. And Chanan was having a beer with the other soldiers of the Jewish Brigade who had just helped defeat the Nazis, and soon would literally fulfill the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, and help the remnants of our people come up out of their graves, as the Almighty would breath life into them, bring sinews and flesh up onto their skeleton like bodies, and bring them home into the Land of Israel.

So, in this, my second to last day in  the Uniform of The Israel Defense forces , for a while, a quick note to Hamas:

We’ve heard louder noises than your rockets.

We’ve seen more terror than any you could ever dream of burrowing beneath our borders.

We’ve faced tyrants and empires, armies and marauders who make the worst you can do think of doing, look like the mad ravings of a fevered child.

Your own people now look at you in disgust. 

No less than Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia has called what you’ve done in Gaza , ” a collective massacre” caused by you, Hamas.

The Palestinian people of Gaza will look at the misery you’ve brought down upon them and ask, what was this for? Of the 1,600 Palestinians who are now dead, because of the war of your making, 1,400 would be alive today if only you had accepted the cease-fire  which Egypt proposed and the Arab League and the President of the Palestine Authority endorsed, and which Israel accepted immediately and unconditionally, and which you rejected by launching a terrorist tunnel attack against us. 

Because you hadn’t enough pictures of dead babies to show an all too gullible world, so you could claim the mantle of victimhood.

And you hadn’t yet managed to pull of the spectacular, ” Divine Victory” terrorist attack that would demoralize the Jews.

And it all failed!

Your more than three thousand rockets, launched against our civilians, were shot down by our Iron Dome. 

Your half-dozen terrorist tunnel attacks were all foiled by the IDF.

Your tunnels, which you built, instead of building homes and hospitals and schools for your people, are in ruins.

And what was it all for?

We haven’t occupied Gaza for 10 years.

There was no siege until you began attacking us with rockets aimed at our civilians.

You promise your people the same thing that Titus and the 10th Roman Legion and Hitler promised theirs.

You promise to annihilate us.

And you may manage to kill a few of us in a terrorist attack. We know the price we must pay to live in this, the land of our forefathers; the land that gave birth to our language and religion and culture. The land that gave birth to the tree of which you are a branch.

Tonight we will lament the tragedies that have befallen us at the hands of other tyrants. 

But we will also give thanks to a merciful and gracious G-d for saving us from the tragedy you had planned. I believe He did it with a handful of religious Jews who followed His commandments by gathering wheat, and I know he did it with the soldiers of the IDF, who stand in a tradition stretching back to David and Joshua, and the Maccabees, and the Haganah and the Jewish Brigade.

Three words to you then on this Tisha B’Av:  Am Yisrael Chai.

The People of Israel Live.

Dan Gordon 

Capt. IDF ( Res)


One Comment on “A tale of two tunnels”

  1. Beautiful story by a dedicated gentleman who is making a huge difference in helping Israel by being here and writing such insightful, inspiring articles. Thanks for posting & hope you’ll interview him when he returns to Sedona. Am Yisrael Chai
    Helen Freedman on my last day in Israel

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