The Sennacherib Effect

A Fictional Short Story

“‘He will not enter this city, or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return;  he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

Dr. Yael Ben Tamar sat in his office overlooking the campus of Weizmann Institute of Science and poured over the Hebrew text from Isaiah in his hands. The hands were shaking. Partly from advanced age, and partly from anxiety. Things were not looking good in the north of Israel, or the Gaza border for that matter. Already salvos of rockets and missiles were raining down on The Galilee and border breaches in the south had mobilized large scale Israeli responses. In spite of Iron Dome and David’s sling, projectiles were getting through to Haifa, as well as towns in the Negev. The country, and the world, was holding its breath. According to Israeli TV and radio reports, Iranian Al Quds forces were at battalion strength in Lebanon and threatening to break into The Galilee with Hezbollah in massive numbers. IDF’s famed 7th Brigade was fighting a holding action, and awaiting full mobilization and more Merkava 4s.

Rabbi Shlomo Sapperstein entered the office and looked at Dr. Tamar with tears in his aged eyes.

“What do we do Yael?” he said, hands uplifted beneath his all black jacket. “Do we go to the Prime Minister? You know what will happen if this thing becomes public!”

“People are dying Shlomo”, Tamar stood up from his desk, “and we may have no choice”.

The rabbi held back the shocked look on his face and said sadly “ it’s so unpredictable…we don’t know what it will do! So many could die…this…this ‘thing’ hasn’t seen the light of day in centuries.”

“But it has seen the light of Hashem, as you are so fond of saying Rabbi. And we need His blessings before our people disappear forever.”

After a moment of uneasy silence between the two old friends, they headed for the car park for the drive up to Jerusalem.


“Even with the IAF effectively suppressing the launch sites, the situational projections in the north are precarious Yuli.” Baruch Doron, Israel’s Chief of Staff, pounded on the Prime Minister’s desk with white knuckles and rage on his face.

“I’m aware of the tactical threats Baruch. You’re my most experienced strategic analyst. I need you to hold them until diplomacy can find a solution…” Yuli Adam, Israel’s Prime Minister, was quickly interrupted by the red faced Chief of Staff…

“Diplomacy, my tuchas! Yuli, you know no-one will lift a finger as long as Israel is losing, when the Arabs lose, HERE THEY COME! Briefcases and all! The Americans are of no help here, this new administration is even planning to close the Embassy in Jerusalem, for gods sake! The Russians are sitting this out, and the EU and UN are cheering on the Persian hordes! The UK is a Labour government and…”

“That’s enough Baruch, I get the point.” Now it was his turn to interrupt.

The PM’s secretary burst in unexpectedly. “Sorry to interrupt sirs, but Dr. Tamar of Weizmann and Rabbi Sapperstein are here to see you. They… said it was urgent, sir.”

Suddenly, the PM’s face was drained of all its color. “Send them in. NOW! And get the foreign minister in here too!”

“Right away sir” she mumbled slightly.


Foreign Minister Aviva Mandelblit was no nonsense. She had successfully stood up to anti-Zionist hordes at the UN time and again, and dealt wisely with fickle Europe and the swinging fortunes with the US Congress and Liberal Administration. Following her into the plain, but business like office of the PM, were the two distinguished minds of Israel’s intellectual circle.

Baruch, astonished at what seemed to him a departure from the task at hand spoke first. “With all due respect gentlemen, there is a WAR to fight!”  He directed his attention to the two scholarly men standing impatiently by. “Hour by hour we lose more precious young Israeli men…”

“And women!” interjected the confident foreign minister as she strode into the room.

He glanced over, nodded, and continued. “…and I don’t see the point in spending important moments entertaining a scientist and a Torah Scholar, again, no offense.” There was an uneasy silence in the small room.

Yuli Adam broke the deadlock. “I know why you two have come, and now, you will all know. Please, sit down.” He motioned to Aviva and the three pensive men to take a chair.

“OK…Be’seder. What I’m about to tell you is classified top secret. No-one knows of this but myself, Dr. Tamar, and Rabbi Sapperstein.” He motioned a trembling hand to Tamar. “Yael, tell us what we need to know, please.”

“Of course”, the distinguished academic cleared his throat. “About eight years ago, a team of archeologists from my department were working in the Siloam tunnel under the City of David excavations. This, as you may or may not know, was the water cistern constructed by the defenders of Jerusalem as they anticipated the Assyrian army under Sennacherib in 701 BCE, ordered by King Hezekiah as a survival in case of siege. It was dry, as the water table had dropped, and several of the scientists reported major computer crashes on their laptops. Further investigation pointed to an electromagnetic dampening field about 512 meters down an incline. So…we dug some more. Fifteen or so meters down, and below the water table, was a small chamber. In the center of a rock formation was a collection of glowing crystal- like projections, odd shapes. We thought them to be phosphorescing quartz, at first, but we couldn’t dislodge them. Nearby chards of pottery dated to the Kingdom of Judah period so we know the Jews were there. We dated a piece of the surrounding rock encasement back at Weizmann. The sample dates to about 4.1 billion years!”

“I don’t accept that date, Yael. You know the Torah says…”

“Not now Rabbi…please, go on Yael” interjected the Prime Minister.

“As I was saying…long story short…Sennacherib did indeed lay siege to Jerusalem, and in the Book of Isaiah, they awoke one morning to find the Assyrian army gone and untold dead bodies beyond the walls. After consulting with my teams, and my dear Schlomo here, we tested the power levels in the cave, and…and…well…the figures are off the scale. They emit more power than all the world’s nuclear reactors put together!”

Baruch broke in. “This is preposterous! Yuli,” he looked the PM, “get those  F-35’s back in the air…and GET ME THOSE TANKS!”

Ignoring his chief of staff, the Prime Minister looked at the archeologist and said “continue Yael”.

“Well” he said, “we found we could control the crystals to some degree by placing hands on the different combinations. Afraid we might kill someone, or many, we were careful to only touch a few. They glowed brighter. That afternoon, there were reports of weapons missing from a nearby army base, massive numbers, mind you, not just a few here and there. We were not paying attention to the news so we didn’t know what happened at first but we noticed a connection to the incident and the direction the crystals were pointing at the time.”

The PM interjected. “It is important to note that the Shin Bet investigation looked into it as terrorism or an inside job for illegal profit.”

“Yes” noted Yael. “Once we made the connection, we tested the theory again, pointing them toward an old airbase south of Jerusalem. This time two Mirage trainers just disappeared, and it was then we went to the Prime Minister with our findings. Further secret testing was done and nicely covered up by Mossad and Shin Bet. We only touched two or three crystals. Only Hashem knows what would have happened if we had touched them all!”

“Apparently, that’s what they did in 700 BCE”. Rabbi Sapperstein was quick to intercede. “The army of Sennacherib was no more, just as in the writings of Isaiah.”

The chief of staff was not amused. “That army had been campaigning in the Levant and up and down the coast for two years. They just outran their lines of supply, that’s all. Not to mention disease and fatigue. What a bunch of nonsense.”

“I don’t see it that way”. Aviva had been quiet up to this point. “What if it’s true? I mean, we don’t have to kill anyone, just a small demonstration to the world that Israel can do this, you know, disarm their enemies, and…”

“NO…” The PM was livid now. I said that none of this can leave this room! And I mean it!

“If I may suggest, Yuli?” Rabbi Sapperstein stood up. “Maybe Aviva has a good idea there, just going about it the wrong way. This is not about Israeli diplomatic leverage, it’s about survival of our people. And the world will see the power of the almighty.”

“Or the power of the IDF with some alien secret weapon.” Baruch said under his breath.

Yael continued, “ alien weapon or hand of Hashem, whatever one thinks, if it puts an end to this war, I’m for it.

The room got quiet, very quiet. After what seemed like an eternity, the PM spoke. “I suppose we have no choice. As the American’s say ‘the cat will be out of the bag’ and God help us if this backfires. Aviva, can you handle the tsunami of diplomatic pressure?”

“Looking forward to it Yuli.” Aviva smiled.

“Yael, I’m no scientist but Baruch here is an old artillery man, he can help you with azimuths and trajectory or whatever they call it, but let me be clear…again NO ONE IS TO KNOW WHERE OR WHAT THIS IS. DO YOU ALL UNDERSTAND?”

They all nodded, Baruch adding “copy that, …really want to see this…this thing.”


The tunnel was dark. The climb down the slope was an uncomfortable journey through rank smells, humidity, and dripping stalactites. Once in the chamber itself, flashlights were not necessary as the glow from the small crystals illuminated the walls and ceiling, about twenty meters square.

Yael, Baruch, and Aviva were the only three in the party. Rabbi Sapperstein did not make the trip due to health issues but had provided a blessing for the three before the descent.

“You realize if this works, everyone’s going to want one” Baruch said to Aviva. “And even if we disarm them, they’ll just get more weapons.”

Aviva was quick to answer. “ Baruch, you stick to your Merkava’s and leave the rest to me. I can spin this so it will put the fear of god into them…literally!”

Yael was working on calculations supplied by Baruch and moving the base stone toward the ‘fire point’. The crystals could not be moved but the base could, and it was pointed north. “Why this direction Baruch?”

“Gaza is an annoyance, but the real threat is Hezbollah and Al Quds in the north, can’t risk losing the Galilee. We’ll take care of Hamas in Gaza next.”

“Of course. I’m ready.”

Aviva said “ That’s all there is to it? No giant computers or fancy screens?

Yael quipped “this was apparently designed for Bronze Age people, very simple design.”

“Do it Yael” Baruch bellowed.

Yael slowly ran his fingertips up two of the crystals and stepped back.


Captain Amir Assi had grown up in Tyre, Lebanon. All his life he wanted to prove his devotion to Allah. As a veteran of Hezbollah he had seen action in Syria against ISIS and had received much training from his great benefactors from Iran. Now he was facing the Zionist enemy with command of his own battery of rockets. For two days, he and his crew had launched deadly projectiles toward Israel, moving from spot to spot to avoid Israeli warplanes. He was one of the lucky ones, he thought. While many of his brothers had perished under the deluge of Hellfires from the IAF, he was determined to be among the first to march triumphantly into Haifa and reclaim the city.

New co-ordinates, new orders. New target. As he stepped into a make-shift tent to acknowledge the radio, there was a blue light that changed to red and back again, lighting up the sky. No sound, no explosions. Just total quiet. As he stepped out of the tent, his men stood dumbfounded, looking around. It was then he noticed the missile assembly was gone. So was the truck, the mount and the array of projectiles. Just gone! Then a very strange feeling came over him. Amir noticed his side arm was gone…and the bullets clipped to his uniform. The assault rifles were gone. He and his men were completely disarmed.

Quickly he got on the radio. Lots of yelling, orders. Counter orders. Total confusion. His commanders would not like this. His men were leaving, running actually. Maybe, he thought, he should run too. Back to Tyre.


The scene played out all across the middle east that morning. Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Gaza Strip. And what was even more astounding was Iran. People awoke to find themselves not where they should be. Entire naval crews, including submarine crews, woke up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, unarmed, starring in disbelief at the green waters of a peaceful sea, wondering where their ships had gone. Nuclear engineers and workers awoke in large open pits where atomic weapons factories and reactors stood the night before. All gone. Vanished like a whisper in the wind. Al Quds soldiers and Revolutionary guard units stood alone in their underwear.

Secretary of State Jack Burrows hurried to the Oval Office. It was late at night, and President Madeline Adebayo was still on her fifth cup of coffee, after being in the situation room all night watching the developments in the Middle East.

No greeting. Just “Jack, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?”

“I don’t know Madam President. The war…it just…stopped.” he said pensively.

“What…what do you mean it just stopped…was there a surrender? Or…what the hell happened? I was just in the situation room talking to Admiral Kovak Sixth Fleet. We were discussing logistics for evacuating Israeli Americans with dual citizenship. And now they tell me…well…I’m hearing some pretty weird things Jack. Like Israeli planes and ground forces have stopped dead in their tracks. No shooting or bomb runs. No missiles. What the hell?”

“The best I can make of the intelligence and from our assets on the ground, there’s nothing to shoot at. The Arabs and Iranians, my god, even the Gaza strip! THEY HAVE NO WEAPONS! No missiles, no rifles, no bullets, not even a damn can opener! Israeli planes are dropping leaflets everywhere saying ‘Go Home’. And Iran, Oh my God…they’re completely de-nucleafied, or whatever. Even the buildings hidden underground are gone!”

The president’s face was frozen in shock. “How many dead Jack?”

“Well  Madam President, that’s the strangest of all. A miracle, or something, I don’t know, but not one single human death, or animal, or anything. No one has died since the first two days of hostilities. Intel reports waves of multicolored light spread over the region like the Northern Lights or something. I don’t get it. Israel is still armed to the teeth as always, but they are demobilizing as we speak.”

The President was in shock. “The Israelis must have something…something we’ve never seen before. Tell me Jack…is the United States in danger?”

Thinking for a moment he said quietly “I don’t think so Madam President. This doesn’t involve us. This…weapon…if that’s what it is…seems to be selective, and for the moment, anyway, it’s a benign warning to Israel’s enemies that far worse could have happened.”

Just then the oval office door opened. The president’s security advisor came in. “Madam President,  Mr. Secretary, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Aviva Mandelblit is on a secure channel for you both. She says she has ‘some helpful suggestions’ for the United States.”


Yael Ben Tamar and Rabbi Shlomo Sapperstein sat quietly together in Yael’s office at the Weizmann Institute sipping tea.

The venerable academician finally broke the silence “You know my old friend,  I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day in the PM’s office. As you know, I’m a scientist, and not really an observant Jew. But I can definitely see the hand of God working here. The Arabs and Iranians are disarmed, literally, and Israel is safe. But…the people of Jerusalem were safe too, at least for a while, until the Babylonians showed up. I can’t help wondering if there might be a new Sennacherib or even a Nebuchadnezzar lurking out there somewhere.” He thought quietly for a moment. “You know…something else raises a quandary. Why Jerusalem, why here? Why not London or Washington, or somewhere else? If this is as old as we think, even the Jews weren’t here yet”.

“Simple, only Hashem knew this land would be given to the Jews, not Europe or America.” The Rabbi twinkled his eyes slightly.” It was always meant for us.”

“Ah…Well…Let’s hope we don’t need it again. A crew is burying the chamber, and all records of the ‘Sennacherib Effect’ have been buried with it, like it never happened. Alien device or not. Hand of Hashem, maybe. We’ll let the world simmer on that for a few generations. “ Yael sipped his tea, “It will stay buried for another four billion years.”

“Six thousand years, Yael,” pointing his finger, “six thousand!”  They both laughed. “What I DO know is this….Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live. To LIFE my friend.”

They both raised their tea.

About the Author
Mitch is currently retired and an adjunct instructor at Western Iowa Technical Community College Sioux City Iowa USA.