NZ and South African tunnels from Lebanon into Israel…writes Michael Kuttner

August 28, 2014 by Michael Kuttner
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Last week, as summer slowly winds down, we went up north to enjoy a short vacation and see some of the sights.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

Zichron Yaakov and Ramat Hanadiv are two places which bear the imprint of their benefactor, Baron Edmund James de Rothschild. The former is the site of the famous Carmel Winery and the latter is a beautifully lush botanical garden which is a delightful spot to wander through and enjoy the immaculate display of nature and fountains.

It was hard to imagine that down south rockets were flying although there had also been sirens in Zichron Yaakov previously. This being the last weeks of the school holidays there were hordes of families taking advantage of the brilliantly fine weather and picturesque surroundings.

Without a doubt the highlight of our trip was a visit to Rosh Hanikra which nestles right up against the Lebanese border. The major attraction there is the cable car which is the shortest and steepest in the world. It leads to a series of nature made grottos where one can view the waves crashing against the caves and witness the raw forces of nature as they continue to carve out more caverns in the limestone rocks.

The story

The story

In the midst of these sights are two large railway tunnels which were blasted and built by members of the New Zealand and South African Engineering Corps during the Second World War. The original idea was to extend the Cairo railway all the way to Istanbul via Mandated Palestine. The railway lines are still there but the tunnels were blasted shut at the Lebanese end during the War of Independence in order to prevent the Arabs from infiltrating and overrunning the north of Israel. Somewhat ironic and topical given the current spate of tunnels from Gaza being used for the same purpose. It is possible to walk through part of both tunnels one of which hosts a sound and light show giving a history of the area. The southern tunnel leads to a beach and place where one can hire bikes and electric vehicles for sightseeing.

Two plaques explain the tunnel history and thus the thousands of Israelis and foreign tourists who visit this site learn with amazement that kiwis amongst others dug tunnels in what was to become Israel.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.



One Response to “NZ and South African tunnels from Lebanon into Israel…writes Michael Kuttner”
  1. Jeff (Shuki) Gould. says:

    I can imagine how you enjoyed your trip to Rosh Hanikra. I lived in Kiriat Bialik not that far from there and I often went there for a few hours.with my wife. It’s particularly a special place for me as my uncle, Bill Spence born in Scotland was an officer in The 10th NZ Railway Const. Coy. and he told me about the time he worked with his men building the tunnel during W.W.2. it so happens, the railway line in W.W.1 went from Akaba in Jordan through Haifa, Afula, and then onto Lebanon. Some of the Rail-line is still there by the side of the Checkpost Crossing in downtown Haifa and, the the beautiful little ancient Afula railway station still was standing well preserved last time I visited kibbutz Yizreel of which I was once a member. I also have a few photos I took of the tunnel.

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