Wadi al-Nabaa, a river adjacent to the Arab village of Qarawat Bani Zaid in Shomron (Samaria),turned vivid red and though the image was undeniably Biblical, one rabbi ascribed a modern political message to the phenomenon.
River in Samaria Turns Red
According to Al-Bayan newspaper, the village council of Qarawat Bani Zaid issued a clarification yesterday, on its Facebook page, saying: “What happened today of pollution to the environment is due to the pouring of damaged paint materials into the valley, which led to a change in the color of the water. To red.”
— طقس العرب – السعودية (@ArabiaWeatherSA) February 21, 2021
Despite the mundane explanation offered by the authorities, many Arab-language social media commenters emphasized the Biblical connotations, likening it to a “River of Blood.” In Islam, there are five plagues i.e. floods, locusts, lice, toads, and turning of drinking water into blood, while in the Bible there are ten plagues i.e. water in to blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, diseased livestock boils, storms of fire, locusts, darkness and death of firstborn. According to the Koran, the plagues were brought by Moses (Musa), one of the five most prominent prophets in Islam.
Plague from Egypt
Rivers turning red, no matter the cause, are reminiscent of the first plague that God sent to strike Egypt before the Exodus:
And the LORD said unto Moshe: ‘Say unto Aharon: Take thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ And Moshe and Aharon did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. Exodus 7:19-20
Rabbi: Reminder to Complete Conquering Promised Land
“The Arabs in Israel are not at all like the Egyptians,” Rabbi Dayan said. “The Egyptians enslaved us, thereby preventing us from coming into Israel. The Arabs in Israel are trying to prevent us from fulfilling God’s commandment of dwelling in the land. Egypt’s military physically prevented the Children of Israel from leaving. Today, it is the Jews, albeit only some Jews, who are preventing us from fulfilling God’s commandment.”
“The plagues in Egypt were a reminder that God was going to fulfill his part of the covenant and bring us out of Egypt,” Rabbi Dayan said. “He brought us out of Egypt to give us the Torah and for us to dwell in the Promised Land; the entire promised land, completely, precisely as God commanded. When God commands us to keep kosher, he does not mean for us to keep mostly kosher.”
“In the Bible story, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to recreate the miracle created by Aaron and Moses, but they were unable to reverse it,” Rabbi Berger said. “This was their way of saying that they were as mighty as God. They were willing to increase their own suffering to make this statement. The same can be said for this modern Arab-generated incarnation of the Biblical plague.”
“In so many ways, through arson and how they relate to nature, the Arabs show that they do not love this land, the Promised land, God’s land,” Rabbi Dayan said. “Anyone who really belongs in this land would never relate to water, the most precious commodity, by pouring paint in a flowing river.”
Plagues Return in the End of Days
Jewish sources predict that all of the plagues will reappear in the final Redemption but in even more powerful forms. It is written in Midrash Tanchuma, homiletic teachings collected around the fifth century, that “just as God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, so too He will strike the enemies of the Jewish people at the time of the Redemption.”
Nahmanides, a prominent 12th century Torah scholar from Spain, wrote in his commentary on the plagues that the primary reason God punished the Egyptians was not for enslaving the Israelite people, but for dismissing God and his influence in their life.
This concept was explained by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, a 13th-century Spanish commentator, who wrote, “In Egypt, God used only part of His strength. When the final redemption comes, God will show much, much more of His power.”