“Hashem sat enthroned at the Flood; Hashem sits enthroned, king forever. May Hashem grant strength to His people; may Hashem bestow on His people wellbeing.” Psalms 29:10-11 (The Israel Bible™)
Hurricane Harvey, described as the “worst disaster” in Texan history, fits into a troubling pattern of natural disasters striking America at times when the country’s leadership is attempting to push Israel into negotiating with its Palestinian neighbors for a peaceful two-state solution involving Israeli concessions.
The category four hurricane, called “unprecedented and “beyond anything experienced” by the US National Weather Service, made landfall Friday night, slamming the Corpus Christi region of Texas with 130 MPH winds and 13-foot storm surges. As of Sunday, at least 50 counties had been declared state disaster areas as a result of what FEMA labeled “the worst disaster” in Texan history. At least eight people were reported as having died as a result of the storm, dozens more were injured, and that number is expected to rise.
While “it is forbidden to attribute divine motivations to such disasters”, Rabbi Yosef Dayan, a former member of the nascent Sanhedrin, told Breaking Israel News, “an introspective process is clearly necessary.”
One overarching spiritual theme places the disaster in a peculiar context. The storm coincided with the Trump Administration’s Middle East negotiating team, led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, visiting the region in yet another attempt to jump-start peace talks. The devastation of Hurricane Harvey thus follows in a long line of natural disasters that have accompanied the anti-Israel political process of negotiating with the Palestinians.
Many steps along the way of the seemingly unending Middle East “peace” process have been marked by destructive hurricanes and disasters. President George H.W. Bush signed the Oslo Accords on October 30, 1991, setting the stage for the ill-fated two-state solution and the idea of land for peace. The very next day, a hurricane dubbed “The Perfect Storm” hit the east coast of the United States, destroying Bush’s house in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The trend continued in August 23, 1992, when the Madrid Conference moved to Washington DC and peace talks resumed. One day later, Hurricane Andrew, the worst natural disaster recorded in American history, hit Florida.
In 1998, after Secretary of State Madeline Albright gave a press briefing announcing an American-brokered deal that would require Israel to give up 13 percent of Judea and Samaria, Georges, a category 4 hurricane, hit the United States Gulf Coast with winds of 110 mph and gusts of up to 175 mph. In terms of damage, it was the costliest hurricane since Hurricane Andrew, causing $10 billion of damage and killing 604 people.
Less than one month later, when PLO head Yasser Arafat met with Israeli Prime Minister at the Wye River Plantation to discuss the deal, Hurricane Madeline raged off the coast of Texas. The resulting rains and tornados caused over $750 million in damage, and killing 31 people.
In 2005, one of the deadliest natural disasters in US history, Hurricane Katrina, coincided with the expulsion of the Jewish population from Gush Katif, which became part of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, in a much-reviled political move made under pressure from the US government.
More recently, in June 2016, a summit was held in Paris as a prelude to a multi-national conference that would force Israel to unilaterally accept the two-state solution and create a Palestinian state within its borders. As the delegates left the summit, rain began to fall. Over the next 24 hours, the River Seine rose 20 feet, resulting in the worst flooding Paris has seen in decades.
The connection between politics and disasters seemed so clear that in 2015, former Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed that America’s anti-Israel policy was bringing down the wrath of God in the form of “natural disasters”. Bachmann said that US President Barack Obama had “in effect declared war in Israel”, paving the way for divine “cursing of America.”
Rabbi Dayan emphasized that even though it is impossible to assign a divine motive to natural disasters, Judaism does not believe in coincidence or happenstance. Everything in the world, even the weather, is a result of man’s relationship with God. The rabbi understood a simple and universal message in the recent disaster.
“In the month leading up to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a divine reminder may be needed to remind us how much our actions affect the world, and how we are all connected, no matter how far away,” the rabbi suggested.
The rabbi said that the highest imperative in this process is the relationship “ben adam l’chavero” (between man and his fellow).
“As we prepare for our holiest days, all of us need to pray for those who are suffering,” Rabbi Dayan said. “Though we never know what God’s motives are, we can be sure that is what He most desires.”