25 Nov, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

On Tuesday afternoon, two huge explosions ripped through the port of Beirut at 6:07 local time, killing hundreds and wounding thousands more. As of Wednesday morning, the Red Cross reported the death toll to be at least 100 dead with fears that it could go much higher. At least 4,000 people were injured.  The explosion generated an enormous shock wave that was actually visible in the videos. Buildings as far away as 6 miles from the source of the explosion were damaged. Streets were filled with shattered glass.

REDEMPTION PRECEDED BY A WAVE OF JUDGMENT

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on  Mount Zion, noted that there was clearly a high level of judgment involved in the explosion.

“The Israeli government would never do such a thing,” Rabbi Berger said. “The Jewish heart rejects the idea of setting an explosion in the middle of a city. But the fact is that Hezbollah has fired rockets at Israeli cities and has more than 100,000 rockets standing ready to fire at Israel. Since its inception, Hezbollah has dedicated itself to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. This explosion certainly contained a high level of justice, one that Israel would be unwilling to enact.”

“And this had to come now since we are well-into the era of the Messiah,” Rabbi Berger said. “And total justice must be enacted for the world to be in the proper condition to recieve the Messiah.”

The rabbi cited the Prophet Isaiah, noting that this harsh judgment marked the year of redemption.

For I had planned a day of vengeance, And My year of redemption arrived. Then I looked, but there was none to help; I stared, but there was none to aid— So My own arm wrought the triumph, And My own rage was My aid. Isaiah 63:4-5

FERTILIZER EXPLOSION?

According to one version of events, the explosion was caused by a fire in a portside warehouse in which a large quantity of volatile fertilizer was stored. 

The fertilizer, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, was en route from Georgia to Mozambique in September 2013 when the ship, the m/v Rhosus flying the Moldovian flag, experienced technical difficulties, forcing it to stop in Beirut. Port officials decided the vessel was unsafe to sail and the crew was repatriated. The ship was abandoned by its owners and the cargo offloaded to a warehouse due to safety concerns. The vessel stood empty fro the past six years, awaiting sale by auction along with the cargo. 

Ammonium nitrate is predominantly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Its other major use is as a component of explosive mixtures used in mining, quarrying, and civil construction. It is the major constituent of ANFO, a popular industrial explosive that accounts for 80% of explosives used in North America; similar formulations have been used in improvised explosive devices. Many countries are phasing out its use in consumer applications due to concerns over its potential for misuse. Though it is not an explosive in the form it is commonly sold, heating or any ignition source may cause violent combustion or explosion.

Ammonium nitrate has been used in terrorist bombings and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, which killed 169 people and injured 467, was carried out using two US tons of the material.

DISSENTING OPINIONS

CNN cited Robert Baer, a former CIA operative with extensive experience in the Middle East, as saying that he does not believe the explosion could have been caused solely by ammonium nitrate. Baer said that from what he observed in videos of the explosion. there were military munitions and propellants present. He speculated it could have been a weapons cache, but it’s unclear who it belongs to.

“You look at that orange ball (of fire), and it’s clearly, like I said, a military explosive.”

Baer noted that white powder seen in the videos of the incident before the major blast is likely an indicator that ammonium nitrate was present and burning. He also noticed a lot of munitions going off ahead of the larger explosion. Baer said while he believes the explosion does not look like solely ammonium nitrate, there’s still no evidence that this was an attack. 

“It almost looks like an accident,” he said. “It was incompetence, and maybe it was corruption, but the question is whether it was military explosives, who was it going to or why was it stored there?”

Tony May, a former explosives investigator for the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who now works as a security and explosives consultant, told CNN the telltale sign of an ammonium nitrate explosive was a yellow smoke cloud. The pink or red cloud that was seen, he said, was “not consistent with ammonium nitrate.”

May said that doesn’t necessarily mean ammonium nitrate wasn’t involved. It could just mean there were “other items as well,” he said.

TRUMP SUGGESTS IT WAS “ATTACK”

The White House sent its condolences to the people of Lebanon, noting that the Lebanese government is still investigating the cause of the explosion. But in a press conference, the president suggested a different cause for the catastrophe, saying “it looks like a terrible attack.”

“It would seem like it based on the explosion,” the president said. “I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was. This was not some kind of a manufacturing type of event. This seems to be, according to them, and they would know better than I would, they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”

ISRAEL OFFERS AID 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun declared a three-day mourning period and a state of emergency in Beirut for two weeks. On the President’s Twitter account, Aoun said it was “unacceptable” that ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse for six years without safety measures and vowed that those responsible would face the “harshest punishments”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had instructed his National Security Council to make contact with UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov “in order to clarify how Israel can further assist Lebanon.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Israel had “offered the Lebanese government — via international intermediaries — medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance”.

“BEING KIND TO THE CRUEL”

Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Tkuma party and a member of the Knesset for the Yamina (right) alliance, was critical of his government’s offer of assistance to a sworn enemy. 

“Regarding the aid proposals to Lebanon, a clear distinction must be made between two levels,” Smotrich tweeted. “If we derive a political benefit from this and we get points in the international arena and it is in our interest anyway – great. But morally we have no duty or need to extend aid to a distinct enemy state.”

Smotrich paraphrased an idiom from Midrash Tanchuma: “He who has mercy on the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.”

Moshe Feiglin, leader of libertarian Zionist party Zehut, agreed with the assessment, noting that the explosion took place on the Hebrew date of the 14th of Av. Feiglin cited the Talmud (Taanit 30a) which stated: “There were no better days for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”

You can’t really believe it was some messy warehouse of fuel – yes…? You understand that hell was supposed to fall on us as a rain of rockets ?! I have a little experience with explosives. The biggest explosion I’ve ever taken part in was 2.5 tons of TNT. What we saw yesterday at teh Beirut Harbor was much bigger. The destruction effect (without the radiation) was of a miniature nuclear bomb.”

Feiglin noted that the threat from the north has increased drastically since Israel retreated from southern Lebanon in 2000.

“For years I’ve been warning that the withdrawal from Lebanon and the new strategic balance against Hezbollah (special thanks to Ehud Barak), put Israel into a balance of threats that is equivalent to a nuclear bomb in the hands of a terrorist organization on our northern border.”

Other Israelis agreed, noting the possibility that the explosion may have been caused by weapons or materiel designated for use against Israel. 

“Take a good look at the destruction and devastation at the port of Beirut and remember that it was all meant to explode on us,” journalist Arnon Segal tweeted.  “And our enemies who are groaning  now would be rejoicing then. How much evil is there, how much darkness, and how much kindness the Creator of the world has done with us.”

THE JERUSALEM-LEBANON CONNECTION

There is an implicit but clear Biblical connection linking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to Lebanon in Deuteronomy.

Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Yarden, that good hill country, and the Lebanon.” Deuteronomy 3:25

The  Yalkut Shimoni, a compilation of rabbinic commentary on the Bible believed to have been composed in the 13th century, noted that in this verse, ‘mountain’ refers to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem since King David referred to it as such in Pslams. 

Who may ascend the mountain of Hashem? Who may stand in His holy place? Psalms 24:3

The Yalkut Shimon then notes that the Temple is referred to as Lebanon by the prophets. 

For thus said Hashem concerning the royal palace of Yehuda: You are as Gilad to Me, As the summit of Lebanon; But I will make you a desert, Uninhabited towns. Jeremiah 22:6

The reason for referring to the Temple as ‘Lebanon’ is that it “whitens the sins of Israel like snow” as described by Isaiah.

“Come, let us reach an understanding, —says Hashem. Be your sins like crimson, They can turn snow-white; Be they red as dyed wool, They can become like fleece.” Isaiah 1:18

This analogy had a practical basis as Lebanon played an integral part in the construction of Solomon’s Temple. King Hiram provided the famed Cedars of Lebanon as well as skilled craftsmen. A fire in Lebanon is reminiscent of the fire that destroyed Solomon’s Temple. The Talmud (Baba Kama 60b) noted that the Temple which was destroyed by fire will be rebuilt by fire.

I, God, kindled a fire in Zion, as it is stated: “The Lord has accomplished His fury, He has poured out His fierce anger; and He has kindled a fire in Zion, which has devoured its foundations” (Lamentations 4:11).

And I will build it with fire in the future, as it is stated: “For I, says the Lord, will be for her a wall of fire round about; and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zechariah 2:9).

“Israel has always been survived by enemies,” Rabbi Berger noted. “It was through God’s will and grace that we succeeded in defending ourselves militarily. But now, we are seeing a different stage. There are all these explosions in Iran and now this explosion in Lebanon. Now, we are in the stage where God is acting against our enemies and Israel doesn’t have to lift a finger. All of the horrors that are prophesied to come before the final redemption are judgments, even the War of Gog and Magog that will come from the north. It is not a war with military objectives and in which the strong will be victorious. It will look like a war but it will in fact be a judgment that will kill all those who came up against Israel.”