Work to upgrade the entrance to Tzfat’s Old City has unearthed an attack tunnel dating to Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Experts believe the tunnel was dug by local Arabs, who intended to use it to blow up the Ashtam Building, an old commercial structure that served as the important outpost and weapons stockpile protecting the city’s Jews.
At that time, Jews were in a small minority in Tzfat compared to the number of Arab residents in the city’s Muslim Quarter.
“This is the only attack tunnel we know of from the time of the War of Independence [other than the sewers used by the Haganah forces in Jerusalem], and also the first attack tunnel in the history of modern Israel,” said Dr. Nissan Sharifi, a researcher focusing on the history of the city.
A few years after the War of Independence, the ground near Ashtam Building was leveled to build a parking area for tourist buses bringing visitors to the old city. Workers refurbishing the area uncovered the tunnel, and initially thought they had stumbled across an antiquity. They contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority, which began a rescue excavation, which turned up findings from the 16th century, the 19th century, a water cistern from the Ottoman period, and the tunnel, which had been filled in at the end of the war and later paved over.
Read More: JNS