Imagine a sewage tunnel built more than 2,100 years ago, which could still be used almost a century later by rebels attempting to escape a besieged city, but being fished out one by one and killed. Imagine a contemporary book which describes this all, which is still a popular read 2,000 years later. Imagine that the city above continues its life, repeatedly being built, destroyed, built and destroyed, while no-one ever returns to the long-forgotten sewage tunnel, which is assumed to have been a legend or an exaggeration or the figment of someone's fervid imagination.
Now imagine a team of professional archeologists who accidentally stumble into the ancient tunnel, then spend a few years carefully cleaning it out, thus demonstrating that it's still there, in its entirety, and is large enough to walk through from end to end. Soon, they announce, perhaps even as soon as May 2011, it will be open to the public, and everyone will be able to walk though it.
In any normal place in the world, this would be a wonderful story, it would be favorably reported in the world's media, and would be celebrated at least as a minor wonder of the world.
Alas, there's a snag to the story. The archeologists are descendants of the original builders and their grandchildren the rebels. They speak the same language, and regard the ancient city as their capital, just as their forefathers did. Uh oh. Not good. Bad, as a matter of fact. Very bad. Pernicious. Destructive. Horrendous.
Haaretz has a long report on the matter, which explains why opening Herod's sewage tunnel is a Zionist conspiracy designed to undermine Palestinian homes and destroy truth, or something of the sort. Thankfully, Nir Hasson, the author, also reports on the counter arguments, so it's a balanced report and you can judge for yourself. Balanced, that is, in the crazy reality which regards Jews unearthing Jewish history as a colonial conspiracy.
I've been through the southern half of the tunnel, by the way. Once it's opened it will be an ideal place to tour on hot summer days, which Jerusalem has many of.