When Jewish militants dug underground tunnels

Seventy years ago it was the Zionist militias who dug underground tunnels and hid weapon caches among the civilian population. So why is it so difficult for Israelis to understand when Hamas does the same today?

A female officer in charge of the range at the Hen women's corps camp near Tel Aviv, Palestine, gives a demonstration in the handling of a Sten gun on June 15, 1948 in the Arab-Israeli War.  Although non-combatants, members the new women's Army in Israel are taught to use guns for defense. (AP Photo/Public Domain)

Whether we like to admit it or not, the Israeli press intentionally ignores the realities of Gaza. One would be hard-pressed to findarticles about the fall-out from last summer’s Gaza war, includinghome reconstruction, destroyed infrastructure, high unemployment rates and the trauma that will likely stay with many of the victims for the rest of their lives.

Even during the war itself, Israel’s biggest television station consciously refrained from showing images of destruction in the Strip in its broadcasts, while the country’s biggest newspaper could barely dedicate a paragraph to the deaths of innocents killed by IDF airstrikes.

It is staggering to think that seven months after Israel embarked on a 54-day military adventure, which led to the deaths of 2,200 Palestinians (500 of whom were children), and 66 Israelis soldiers and five civilians (including one child) — it seems like nothing ever happened.

So when do we hear about Gaza? When Hamas and Fatah go head to head, when the international community fails to make good on its commitments, when Israelis are killed or wounded by Gaza militantsor when the army happens to discover a new underground tunnel that it missed during Operation Protective Edge.

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This weekend, while leafing through the Hebrew print edition ofHaaretz, an obituary caught my eye. The piece, written by Ofer Aderet, described the life story of Yehudit Ayalon, who was born in Latvia in 1924 and moved to Palestine in 1936. In 1945, two years before the war broke out, Ayalon and a group of her friends from her Zionist youth group were enlisted into the pre-state Haganah militia for a secret mission.

“They didn’t tell us what they wanted us to do,” she said. “They just told us it would be dangerous and secret. We decided to do it, because it was very Zionist. Here I had the opportunity to do something small that would lead to the establishment of the State of Israel.” The group was soon to find out exactly what its top-secret mission was: building an underground bullet factory.

A photo of a 'slik' weapons cache in Kfar Giladi. These underground hideouts served the different Zionist militias in the lead-up and during the 1948 War. (photo: Avi1111/CC BY-SA 2.5)