Exploring Hamas tunnels… underneath the streets of London

A new exhibit is trying to show the world what Gaza’s terror tunnels are really like


(C) Blake Ezra Photography 2024

I’m standing in the middle of London, on a bright winter’s day, preparing to descend into the ground. The walls around me are cold and wet and as we go down the stairs, all light disappears. 

As we enter the tunnels, you can hear Arab voices shouting and gunfire echoing in the corridors. 

This is the closest I hope to get to the tunnels underneath Gaza – a simulation thousands of miles away. 

I’m at Voices From The Tunnels, an immersive exhibit trying to keep the plight of the 137 remaining Israeli hostages front and centre in the world’s sympathies, aiming to show what life is like in the tunnels beneath Gaza. In a derelict former button factory in east London, rooms have been made to look, feel and sound like those built by Hamas.

In the basement of the factory, the storage space has been converted into a macabre exhibit. Put together by two London-based activists, Voices from the Tunnels took testimony from freed hostages and media reports to bring their experiences to light in grim fashion. The rooms are dark and cramped, with soiled mattresses and grim operating tables. The walls and floors are dripping wet and the shouts and gunfire of terrorists can be heard echoing through the halls.

The tour starts with a compilation of news footage, both from October 7 and the testimony of freed hostages. It makes for a grim watch as the victims of Hamas describe their days underground. These stories - of having surgery with no anaesthesia, of being fed meagre rations, of terrorists screaming at them to be silent at all times, are heartbreaking. Orit Eyal-Fibeesh, co-founder of the 7/10 Human Chain Project accompanied several groups on a tour of the exhibit, giving context and explaining the methods the group used to create the shocking display.

Different rooms show different aspects of life in captivity, from the daily routines of hostages as they tried to keep track of the days and months that passed, to the horrific sexual crimes and botched surgeries they faced.

Much of the testimony has been reported, but seeing it represented in this way packs a punch. In one room, a child’s mannequin is perched on a dirty mattress faced towards a small TV showing Hamas GoPro footage on a loop - something that I’d processed in the abstract, but found hard to watch presented like this.

Eyal-Fibeesh and the 7/10 Human Chain created the exhibit in a little over six weeks. Their work started as the first wave of hostages were released “This is the first exhibit of its kind. It’s an attempt to bring the stories of the released hostages to life and to tell those stories because we feel we have an obligation.

“To create this, we have spoken to released hostages, we have spoken to the rescue services. We collected evidence, videos and photographs taken by Hamas and by the IDF. And we have verified everything that we're showing here to make sure that we're using factual information for people.”

Voices from the Tunnels is a dramatic way of showing these stories, and to be frank, a blunt tool. It’s a dramatic illustration of the war that punches you in the face rather than educates softly. And according to Eyal Fibeesh, this is by design.

She says as the war goes on, it becomes harder and harder to capture the public’s attention and this exhibit is a way of dramatically ensuring that people don’t forget the more than 100 Israelis still trapped in Gaza and in particular the daily torment they’re subjected to in the tunnels beneath the strip.

Someone who can’t forget the terrible situation in the tunnels is Noam Sagi. Noam’s mother Ada, an Arabic teacher who spent her time on Kibbutz Nir Oz, working with Gazans, was taken from her home on October 7 and spent more than six weeks in captivity in Gaza, in the house of a lawyer that had been converted by Hamas to function as a holding cell for hostages. She was freed at the end of November after spending her 75th birthday in Gaza.

Speaking at the exhibition, Noam said “It’s as close as you can get to understand this on a visceral level, what it means to be in a tunnel and not being able to breathe properly.

“We need to show the world, that the hostages are real people. They chose to go to a music festival, they chose to live in peaceful communities, sharing and caring for the people of Gaza, and this is what they got. A lot of people need to see that, I hope it will be opened up to the public.

“I don’t want to expose anyone to this, but the world that we live in isn’t an Instagram world where everything is fantastic. We can’t have people just thinking this happened somewhere in the corner of the Levant.”

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