Another “Miracle” Claim In Gaza Conflict

A dramatic front-page teaser headline from WND:

Army: ‘Hand of God sent missile into sea’

Imagine that, the Israeli army has officially confirmed a miracle! Quick, let’s click through:

Iron Dome operator: ‘I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes’

So, not the “Army” as such, but a single Iron Dome operator. And who is he? Joe Kovacs tells the story (square brackets in original):

Israel Today translated a report from a Hebrew-language news site, which noted the Iron Dome battery failed three times to intercept an incoming rocket headed toward Tel Aviv last week.

The commander recalled: “A missile was fired from Gaza. Iron Dome precisely calculated [its trajectory]. We know where these missiles are going to land down to a radius of 200 meters. This particular missile was going to hit either the Azrieli Towers, the Kirya (Israel’s equivalent of the Pentagon) or [a central Tel Aviv railway station]. Hundreds could have died.

“We fired the first [interceptor]. It missed. Second [interceptor]. It missed… Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that … sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a God!’

“I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of God send that missile into the sea.”

Had the rocket stayed on course, it would have been the most successful Hamas operation ever by far: hundreds massacred, and either a major landmark destroyed or Israel’s intelligence centre taken out. That’s beyond Hamas’ wildest expectations, and not really plausible.

Israel Today is a Christian Zionist publication, and its account of the story can be seen here. However, the Hebrew-language news site it relied on – Kooker – is itself derivative, dating from 29 July; there’s also an alternative English version, entitled “The Azrieli Towers Miracle” that appeared on My Western Wall two days earlier. It has a bit more about the unnamed “commander”:

A true and amazing story told by Ohad Shaked:

I received a phone call on Sunday from “A,” one of the Iron Dome commanders who was a student of mine about 6 years ago.

… “What happened?” I asked him. “A Missile was fired from Gaza. The Iron Dome can detect where the missile is going to fall within a 200 meter radius. This particular Missile was heading to the Azrieli Towers, or to the railroad tracks. Either way, hundreds could have paid with their lives!”

…We sent the first “dome” and it missed. Then the second as well as the third dome missed, this is a very rare occurrence. To date, only two other such cases occurred. I was in shock!

…There is a G-d’!!! I saw this miracle with my own eyes. No one told me about it, it was not reported to me.

Of course this was not reported for security reasons, but it’s enough to witness the miracles with our own eyes to know there is Hashem (G-d). I ran to one of the religious soldiers and asked him to put on tefillin. I took it upon myself to keep Shabbat, and that was the very best Shabbat I have ever had.” This is what he told me. I was so excited that it even brought a tear to my eye.

For some reason, the the threat to the Kirya is not included in this version. The “commander” remains anonymous, but we at least have a lead this time, in the name of Ohad Shaked. Shaked has previously written for YNet: he is a Haredi, and is billed as “a history and civics teacher at a Tel Aviv high school”.

Shaked also runs a Hebrew newsletter, called Shabbat Table, and a Hebrew report on this site, dated 29 July, cites this newsletter as the source of the story. It adds (via Google translate, slightly amended):

Responses on social networks raged over the veracity of the story, they flooded Shaked’s Facebook page with questions, he answered as best he could, without being able to provide personal information beyond what is written in the story, because the sensitivity of the matter.

However, the Facebook page for the newsletter hasn’t been updated since the start of July, and there’s nothing on Shaked’s website either. Much of the Hebrew text in this article, although not this sentence or any reference to Shaked, appeared on a blog on 27 July.

So, we’ve gone from an “Army” announcement, to the story that someone who may or may not be a Tel Aviv high school teacher named Ohad Shaked claims to have spoken to an anonymous Iron Dome commander. Thus are urban legends created.

And to illustrate the point further, another version of the story was posted as a comment to this blog just a few days ago:

I live outside the US, but I just received today an email from my daughter who lives in the US. She is friends with a member of a Hebrew congregation where she lives (my daughter is not Jewish) who received an email from her friend in Israel who helps man an Iron Dome site. The Iron Dome tech emailed her with an exciting email about how they had missed an incoming Hamas missle (more than once), it was minutes away from striking a tower near their site, when a large wind appeared from nowhere and blew the missle out to sea.

This was placed under my blog post about an earlier story from a couple of weeks ago, in which it was claimed that Hamas has admitted that “the God of the Jews” is diverting its missiles. That one was also picked up by WND – again, there’s a strange symbiosis between a Haredi account coming out of Israel and American evangelicalism.

WND: The Bible Predicts the Destruction of Gaza

Scary stuff, from “Glenn Beck’s End-Times Prophet” Joel Richardson, at WND:

What Does the Bible Say about the Future of Gaza?

…Now, for those who are seeking to take a middle-of-the-road stance, it may be a hard pill to swallow that much of Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah. This, however, is exactly what the prophecy declared. This is not a historical prophecy. The prophecy is ultimately pertaining to the Day of the Lord and the Return of Jesus.

Of course, Richardson is not quite saying that this must be the immediate outcome of the current conflict, but he drops some heavy hints:

As the prophecy [of the Book of Joel] continues, it goes on to speak of the Lord specifically executing vengeance against those from the regions of Lebanon and Gaza who have engaged in violence against the people of Israel:

What are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon (Lebanon) and all the regions of Philistia (Gaza)? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head. (Joel 3:4)

Where it says “Tyre, Sidon,” and “the regions of Philistia” one could nearly insert Hezbollah and Hamas. It is nearly pulled from today’s headlines.

Erm, not quite. Here’s the proper context, from the verses following:

Since you have taken My silver and My gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples, and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory, behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head. Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation, for the LORD has spoken. Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!

This makes absolutely no sense in terms of the modern world and the modern conflict in Gaza; the text clearly pertains to events in the ancient world, when it was written. The Philistines (themselves actually of Greek extraction) appear to have indulged in plunder and slave-trafficking at the time when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was up against the Babylonians, and the the author, writing a few years later, is rather sore about it. That’s it. Nothing to do with “Hezbollah and Hamas”, or “today’s headlines” in any meaningful sense: there are no pagan temples in Gaza with gold and silver expropriated from Judah; modern Israelis have not been sold by Gazan Palestinians into slavery in Greece; and modern Israel is not planning to sell Palestinians to a mercantile tribe in the south of Arabia.

Of course, its always possible to extrapolate from the text’s obvious meaning in an arbitrary way and impose some sort of “symbolic” meaning relating to current affairs (the “temples” as mosques, etc.), but there’s no sensible reason for doing so, and such a method is subjective and useless.

For the specific destruction of Gaza, Richardson turns to Zephaniah:

For Gaza will be abandoned. … Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you so that there will be no inhabitant. So the seacoast will be pastures, with caves for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; For the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune.

This is indeed a vision about the future. But again, looking at the text in proper context show that the author’s concerns belong very much in the ancient world. At home, he fulminates against worshippers of Milcom and royal courtiers in “outlandish clothes” at the Jerusalem Temple; abroad, Gaza is just at the head of a shit-list that includes Moab and Ammon, Ethiopia (which will “be run through by my sword”), and the Assyrians. It has nothing to do with twenty-first century politics.

Richardson is not a man without compassion – indeed, he’s quick to add that prophecy of Joel does not refer to “every single inhabitant of Lebanon and Gaza” – but “Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah” is unambiguously eliminationist.

The Bible can help believers think seriously about where they should stand morally in relation to current events. But the ramblings of self-styled “prophecy experts” such as Richardson are a way to avoid thinking seriously about what’s actually going on in the real world.