When so many people—Israelis and Palestinians—want a piece of the land, things are bound to end with an explosion. Yet despite underlining petty and self-interested motives on all sides, [the book] portrays its characters in a sympathetic light: Can readers really quarrel with a woman’s quest to reclaim her father’s heritage, or over a Palestinian’s negative attitude toward Israelis after witnessing the treatment of his people by the IDF?...Tunnels is a great triumph.Tablet
By Rutu Midas. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Hardcover, 284 pages, Colour, 2021
A RACE FOR THE ARK OF THE COVENANT FINDS AN EXPLORATION INTO THE ETHICS AND WORLD OF THE INTERNATIONAL ANTIQUITY TRADE
TRANSLATED BY ISHAI MISHORI
When a great antiquities collector is forced to donate his entire collection to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Nili Broshi sees her last chance to finish an archeological expedition begun decades earlier—a dig that could possibly yield the most important religious artifact in the Middle East. Motivated by the desire to reinstate her father’s legacy as a great archeologist after he was marginalized by his rival, Nili enlists a ragtag crew—a religious nationalist and his band of hilltop youths, her traitorous brother, and her childhood Palestinian friend, now an archeological smuggler. As Nili’s father slips deeper into dementia, warring factions close in on and fight over the Ark of the Covenant!
Backed by extensive research into this real-world treasure hunt, Modan sets her affecting novel at the centre of a political crisis. She posits that the history of biblical Israel lies in one of the most disputed regions in the world, occupied by Israel and contested by Palestine. Often in direct competition, Palestinians and Israelis dig alongside one another, hoping to find the sacred artifact believed to be a conduit to God. Two time Eisner Award winner Rutu Modan’s third graphic novel, Tunnels, is her deepest and wildest yet. Potent and funny, Modan reveals the Middle East as no westerner could.
Ishai Mishory is a longtime New York City—and newly Bay Area—based translator and sometimes illustrator. He is currently conducting research for a PhD dissertation on 16th century Italian printing.
Praise for Tunnels
The very best kind of satire… Modan embraces political absurdity, subverting ridiculous aspects of faith and fanaticism while never devolving to mockery.Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Through exuberant wit, wisdom and genuinely cinematic verve, Modan’s Middle-Eastern intrigue grabs us from the very first panel and never lets go. A colorful cast of passionate, exasperating and eccentric characters, all flawed yet somehow loveable, enliven Tunnels’ riotous plot.Ranen Omer-Sherman, Professor of English and JHFE Endowed Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Louisville
Complex and thrilling… If Modan has given us a tightly plotted adventure story, she has also delivered a brilliantly daring satire. Her gaze spares no one: even Nili (especially Nili) is a pain in the backside.Rachel Cooke, The Guardian
Tunnels is an incisive dig into contemporary Israeli life. It's rich with human foibles, critical of how both religion and archeological claims shape life along the separation wall, and also an adventure story. Rutu Modan is a gifted storyteller, full of life and humour.Nicole Krauss, author of To Be a Man
Rutu Modan has written and drawn a true adventure story for the modern age, where a classic quest for precious antiquities is complicated by human relationships and real-world politics. Vivid characters vie for control, events take unexpectedly hilarious turns, farce folds in on itself, and a cow jumps over the moon. The most fun I've had reading a graphic novel in years.Jason Lutes, Cartoonist of Berlin
An adventure story that dives deep into the world of Israeli archaeology, gets its hands dirty digging for lost treasures, plunges into the intrigues and rivalries of academia, and collides head-on with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Haaretz