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Nocturnal scene with black horse and girl leading

Tora Bora

Tora Bora


Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters watch several explosions from U.S. bombings in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan December 16, 2001

Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters watch several explosions from U.S. bombings in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan. December 16, 2001.

Source: Credit: Erik de Castro/Reuters

In December 2001, three months after the September 11th attacks, American and allied forces assaulted a cave complex in Afghanistan – the Tora Bora. Intelligence had it that Osama Bin Laden had been hiding there. After three days of relentless bombardment, including the use of large bombs known as Daisy Cutters, special Delta forces and others broke in. Al Kaeda fighters inside negotiated a truce with a local Afghan militia commander to give them time to surrender their weapons. Some believe the truce was a device to allow important al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden, to escape.

Overnight, Kandahar, Kabul and Tora Bora became household names. For me, the sounds lit something else inside my soul, conjuring an ancient memory.

The following poem came from wherever such things do, in Augsut of 2002, in Jerusalem.

As I have currently been writing about the topic of Rojava – the feminist-social utopia attempting against all odds to take root at the heart of the “patriarchal belt” between Syria and Iraq – I had a calling to go back to the drawer, where this poem was tucked away for the last 17 years and pull it out… 

Here it is with tiny modifications:

Tora Bora

I was the most desired maiden

 down at the foothills

of Tora Bora.

You might remember

our mothers’ warnings:

The spirits of the mountain

would demise any soul

who dares set foot

on the ancient Goddess’s grounds.

It was me,

you sure remember,

who ventured all alone

on the black magic horse

towards The  Forbidden.

The people in the village

and all the way down to Kandahar

still sing the glory

of my valiant horse –

who died, defending his mistress

on the path to Tora Bora.

Black horse with lady and moon

On foot I reached the precincts

Of the Sacred Mountain.

The winds talked histories

carved into rocks,

whispered secrets

sealed into hidden passages.

A mountain desiring desire,

a mountain

the Goddess destined

for ultimate love –

to be sanctified,


at her behest…

In Tora Bora

I re-dreamt you,

my lover

and as you crowned me  –

your heart’s desire –

in the dark belly of the mountain

under the light of the moon

beyond Earth’s edge –

neither family

nor the one they chose for me

could have detected

the gentle footsteps I left behind

that the wind swept away…

I caressed our new-born daughter

at my hide in Tora Bora.

I passed countless winters warming myself

against her body,

as the luna waxed and waned.

My end

I will not recount herein

to spare you the grief, my love,

but do not despair.

I’m still here –

me, the one you dream of

night after night

life after life,

trying to recuperate the memory

of our unforgettable union

at Earth’s womb 

in our Lady’s cavern, 

at Tora Bora,

Still expecting –

your return

Her re-reign

our redemption

at mystery’s realm

known as

Tora Bora.


Orit Adar, 2/8/2002,  Jerusalem

Picture of girl with horse:

Footnote: The Khyber Pass

Separately: The Tora Bora caves are located 50 km west of the Khyber Pass. As a child something about that name struck my imagination. For years I envisioned myself treading the mountain high road in a long line of people –  riding donkeys, walking, carrying their meager belongings – refugees displaced from home for a reason memory could not fetch. 

Searching for the imagery ingrained in my mind’s eye, seeking the Déjà vu, I chanced upon the following extraordinary video collage from the 1930s – short films taken by British travelers of Khyber and the surrounding area from the time of the Empire. They were put together by Brar Movie Works in 2012:

Captions in the film read: Khyber Pass, the Valley of Sudden Death and the most strongly fortified defile* on Earth…is the funnel through which India’s ravagers have poured ever since history began…One of the most fascinating annual migraions in the world …

*defile – a steep-sided narrow gorge or passage (originally one requiring troops to march in single file)

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