Mount Zion was conquered by Israel’s Harel Brigade on 18 May 1948, and became the only part of Jerusalem’s Old City to stay in Israeli hands until the armistice. The force on Mount Zion served as the forward position in the defence of southwest Jerusalem. For 19 years, from 1948, Jerusalem was divided. Jordan occupied the Old City and east Jerusalem, while Israel held west Jerusalem. The boundary was mined and marked by barbed wire.1

Before Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, Jordanian snipers threatened supply lines to Mount Zion. If you walk around the ramparts of the Old City today, it is evident how easy it would have been for Jordanian snipers to hit exposed Israelis. As Mount Zion was at the frontline of the boundary with Jordan, it was impossible to transport supplies and equipment from the rest of Israeli-held Jerusalem to Mount Zion without being attacked.

In response, Israel constructed a trench that commenced in the Mishkenot Sha‘ananim locality, near to the Montefiore Windmill, crossed the Valley of Hinnom, and continued up the slope of Mount Zion. Well-hidden from sight, it was partially covered by a tin roof disguised by a layer of dirt with its walls lined with cement. The tunnel was steep, narrow, and full of twists and turns.

Unfortunately, the tunnel was not capable of transporting large quantities of supplies quickly enough for the army’s needs. Uriel Hefetz, who had been Commander of the IZL’s (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Engineering Corps, designed a cable car which ran across the Valley of Hinnom to the Israeli position on Mount Zion.2 Because it only operated at night, the cable was lowered into the valley during the day, and was never discovered by the Jordanians.

When Jerusalem was united in 1967, Israel removed almost all evidence of the division of the city, but the Mount Zion tunnel remained and quickly fell into disrepair. Unfortunately, its historical significance was also lost. The underground trench, constructed by the Israeli Combat Engineering Corps (CEC) in 1948, had been an essential supply line prior to the Six Day War.

Recently there was activity at the site, and part of the restored Mount Zion tunnel is now open to the public.3 The entrance has a semicircular tiered seating area for visitors to rest and enjoy the view of the city. Today what remains of the tunnel opens onto Hativat Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Brigade) Street, which runs along the Old City walls. The rest of the tunnel has gradually disappeared over the years.

The architect responsible for restoring the remains of the Mount Zion tunnel, Moshe Shapiro, used corroded steel for the roof, and cut into the rooftop are the 70 Hebrew names4 for Jerusalem in the Bible. When the sun sets, the words are projected onto the ceiling and walls as if written in gold.5

Because of Israel’s transgressions, Jerusalem was to be under Gentile control for a limited period only: “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). The return to Zion in our day has resulted in the Jewish State being established with Jerusalem as its capital. These events have been overshadowed by their loving and faithful God, for nothing is “too hard” for Yahweh (Jer 32:17,27). Soon our Lord Jesus Christ will return to set up God’s kingdom and the regathering of the Jews to the land promised to the fathers of Israel is the great sign of his coming (Ezek 37:21-22).

References:

  1. Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am, “Get into the trenches of Israeli history at the revamped Mt. Zion supply tunnel”, The Times of Israel, 4 September 2021, on line at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/get-into-the-trenches-of-israeli-history-at-the-revamped-mt-zion-supply-tunnel/?utm_source=The+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=daily-edition-2021-09-04&utm_medium=email
  2. “Mt. Zion Cable Car” in, Gems in Israel, May 2000, online at: https://web.archive.org/web/20120813051739/http://www.gemsinisrael.com/e_article000003947.htm
  3. Zahi Shaked, Israel Tour Guide, Mount Zion Tunnel, Jerusalem – built at 1948 by the Israelis because of the Jordanian occupation, May 28, 2021, online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvzdYPFCZXc
  4. Jerusalem – a City with Many Names, Friends of Zion Museum, online at: https://fozmuseum.com/explore-foz/jerusalem-city-many-names/
  5. Zahi Shaked.