Newsletter 25: The Western Wall Tunnel
You might know that my family is somewhat scattered over the face of this great earth of ours. My one brother, Raymond and his family, lives in Toronto Canada and my other brother Bernard and his family is in Sydney Australia. To my great joy Bernard came to visit me the other day and to spend time with his nephews, my sons. Needless to say we all had a good time with lots of partying, chatting about old times and above all touring together through Israel, mostly Jerusalem. If I asked Bernard what was the highlight of his tour, besides the pleasure he had from visiting the family, I think he'd say it was the train journey he made to Hedera to visit some of his wife's family. Bernard was excited about everything he saw and did in Israel but he couldn't stop raving about the excellence of that train service; it was quiet, comfortable, punctual,cheap and very fast. He was also very impressed with the wonderful bus service throughout the country and in the cities. He even considered the transport system here to be better than the one in Sydney. If you asked me, what was the highlight of Bernard's visit, besides the obvious pleasure it gave my sons to spend time with their uncle, I would say it was his visit to the Western Wall tunnel. This archaeological excavation is under the houses of the Arab neighborhood of the Old City and makes it possible for the visitor to walk along a part of the Western Wall that had been hidden for nearly 2000 years. A small part of the Western Wall, known as the Wailing Wall, has always been visible, since the time of the destruction. Jews have been going to pray there from time immemorial. But this tunnel, dug laboriously for 20 years from 1967 to 1987, provides one with a clear glimpse of the magnificence of the Temple that once was. Stones buried deep underground kept their newness and look as if the temple was built only yesterday. The narrowness of the tunnel and the strong reinforcing prevent the Arab neighborhood above from being damaged. Above the tunnel the Arab population continues their lives undisturbed. In fact the exit of the tunnel is in that neighborhood and we walk back to the Western Wall that way. One of the conclusions that I came to, on seeing the massive stones of the Temple is that the structure was indeed impregnable as we are told by Josephus in his history of the Jews. Besides being a place of worship it was also a place of refuge in times of war. We have several examples in Jewish history when it was used for this purpose. No army had ever succeeded in penetrating The Temple by force. The only way that the attackers entered the Temple was by agreement made with the defenders. This makes it quite surprising that the 10th Roman Legion, in the year 70 chose to attack the Temple rather than to negotiate an agreement of surrender. Also, judging from the account in the Talmud, the high priest was in the middle of making the afternoon sacrifice when the Romans broke through and took him by surprise, it appears that the Jews never expected the Roman army to try to conquer the Temple by force but to make an agreement. The Talmud gives us a clue to the reason why the Romans chose to attack, conquer and finally destroy the Temple instead of reaching a surrender agreement. According to the Talmud the Temple was destroyed by God as a punishment for unfounded hatred between one Jew and another. In my opinion, the worst form of unfounded hatred is treason, which is an act against the nation. It's unfounded because it's not a specific hatred of one person who's done something specific to harm the hater. It's the result of a general feeling of hatred of an entire nation and it harms the entire nation. Only information, provided by a traitor could have shown the Romans how to penetrate the Temple. And only encouragement from a traitor, in the form of incitement could have urged the Romans to carry out the terrible act of destroying the Temple. After our visit to the Western Wall tunnel I am convinced that the destruction of the 2nd Temple by the 10th Roman Legion was indeed, as said by the Talmud, the act born from the worst kind of hatred, hatred without reason, namely treason.