December 14, 2010
Like this article?
Join our email list:
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
When a Shiite prayer leader blames earthquakes in Iran on immodestly dressed and promiscuous women, neocons like Michael Ledeen snicker.
When a prominent ultra-orthodox Israeli spiritual and political leader agrees with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyehthat the fire destroying Israel’s Carmel Forest is a punishment from God, there’s silence.
Ovadia Yosef, a former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, who remains a prominent spiritual and political leader of the Shas party, and Palestinian Prime Minister elect Haniyeh agree that the Deity has been venting His fury by means of the destructive blaze in Israel, but disagree about why.
The German press agency DPA, via Haaretz, reports that Haniyeh, during emergency prayers for rain held in Gaza last week, stated that “those fires are divine strikes for what they [Israel] did.” According to the Jerusalem Post, Haniyeh told Reuters during a recorded interview: “These are plagues from God” and “Allah is punishing them [the Israelis] from a place they did not expect it.”
After Hamas’s overwhelming electoral victory on January 25, 2006 in the Palestinian parliamentary election, Haniyeh was chosen to be the Palestinian Prime Minister and he was sworn in on March 29, 2006. The U.S. then severed all contact with Hamas-led Palestinian government. Israel has refused to accord any political legitimacy to Hamas.
Rabbi Yosef, on the other hand, blames Israelis’ religious laxity–particularly their failure to properly observe the sabbath–for arousing Divine wrath, according to the Israeli news site Y-Net:
Shas’ spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef implied on Saturday night that the fire raging on Mount Carmel in northern Israel was a punishment from God for religious offenses committed by the area’s residents.
During his weekly sermon, the rabbi read a section from the Babylonian Talmud, which states that “the fire only exists in a place where Shabbat is desecrated.”
“A number of houses were destroyed, entire neighborhoods were lost – all under supervision,” the rabbi said. He recommended that people “study Torah, engage in good deeds, repent, observe Shabbat, and know the entire Halacha, and thanks to this God will apply a full recovery.”
This is not the first time Rabbi Yosef has publicly proffered a theological justification for a major disaster. In September of 2005, Yosef blamed the destructiveness of Hurricane Katrina on the residents of New Orleans and on U.S. President George W. Bush’s pressure on Israel to withdraw from northern Gaza and the West Bank:
Hurricane Katrina is a punishment meted out by God as a result of U.S. President George W. Bush’s support for the Gaza and northern West Bank disengagement… Notably, the rabbi chose to openly declare what many ultra-Orthodox believers have said for a while now, namely that recent naturally disasters in the U.S. are a direct result of American support for the pullout.
In his weekly sermon, the rabbi said: “There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there (in New Orleans). Blacks will study the Torah? (God said) let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”
Yet Rabbi Ovadia was not done there, and proceeded to explain in detail why Americans deserved the Hurricane. “Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled). It was God’s retribution ..God does not short-change anyone.”“He (Bush) perpetrated the expulsion. Now everyone is mad at him…this is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too,” the rabbi said.