6/12/12: The pride of the Israeli navy is rocking gently in the swells of the Mediterranean, with the silhouette of the Carmel mountain range reflected on the water’s surface.
To reach the Tekumah, you have to walk across a wooden jetty at the pier in the port of Haifa, and then climb into a tunnel shaft leading to the submarine’s interior. The navy officer in charge of visitors, a brawny man in his 40s with his eyes hidden behind a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, bounces down the steps. When he reaches the lower deck, he turns around and says: “Welcome on board the Tekumah. Welcome to my toy.”
He pushes back a bolt and opens the refrigerator, revealing zucchini, a pallet of yoghurt cups and a two-liter bottle of low-calorie cola. The Tekumah has just returned from a secret mission in the early morning hours.
The navy officer, whose name the military censorship office wants to keep secret, leads the visitors past a pair of bunks and along a steel frame. The air smells stale, not unlike the air in the living room of an apartment occupied solely by men. At the middle of the ship, the corridor widens and merges into a command center, with work stations grouped around a periscope. The officer stands still and points to a row of monitors, with signs bearing the names of German electronics giant Siemens and Atlas, a Bremen-based electronics company, screwed to the wall next to them.
The “Combat Information Center,” as the Israelis call the command center, is the heart of the submarine; the place where all information comes together and all the operations are led. The ship is controlled from two leather chairs. It looks as if it could be in the cockpit of a small aircraft. A display lit up in red shows that the vessel’s keel is currently located 7.15 meters (23.45 feet) below sea level.
“This was all built in Germany, according to Israeli specifications,” the navy officer says,”and so were the weapons systems.” The Tekuma, 57 meters long and 7 meters wide, is a showpiece of precision engineering, painted in blue and made in Germany. To be more precise, it is a piece of precision engineering made in Germany that is suitable for equipping with nuclear weapons.
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