Oct 23, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

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The humanitarian crisis caused by the decade-long civil war in Syria is worsening as the Euphrates River, the longest river of Western Asia, is drying up.

According to one rabbi, this is the realization of a prophecy from the Book of Jeremiah.

The Euphrates River

Originating in Turkey, the Euphrates flows through Syria and Iraq to join the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab, which empties into the Persian Gulf. This year, rainfall in southern Turkey where the Euphrates begins was the lowest in 30 years and for the past two years, the region has received only 50-70 percent of normal rainfall. Syria is currently facing its worst drought in 70 years. 

The 1,700 mile-long Euphrates is the main source of drinking water as well as powering three hydroelectric plants that produce electricity for about three million people in Syria. Two dams in northern Syria face imminent closure which would leave about three million people without any access to electricity. The water level at the Tishrin Dam, the first into which the river falls inside Syria, has dropped five meters and is currently about ten centimeters above “dead level” when the turbines stop producing electricity.

The sources of the river lie in Turkey and an agreement between the two countries in 1987 allowed an annual average of 500 cubic meters per second of water to cross into Syria. In recent months, that amount has dropped to as little as 200 cubic meters per second. 

Some experts believe that Turkey is using the water crisis to exert a political agenda. Much of the path of the Euphrates inside Syria lies inside the northeastern region of the country which is controlled by the semi-independent Kurds which Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization. Turkey has seized land in Syria from the Kurds in order to decrease their influence on the border region. The Kurdish authorities are accusing the Turkish government of withholding water for political purposes. 

Biblical references

The Euphrates figures prominently in the Bible with it being described as bordering the Garden of Eden.

The name of the third river is Tigris, the one that flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. Genesis 2:14

It was also named as one of the borders of the land God granted to Abraham’s descendants.

On that day Hashem made a covenant with Avram, saying, “To your offspring I assign this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates: Genesis 15:18

The prophet Jeremiah described how the waters of Babylon, the region currently including Syria and Iraq, would dry up as a punishment for their idolatrous practices, the devastation being so complete as to render the region, once part of the so-called ‘fertile crescent’, uninhabitable.

A drought against its waters, that they be dried up! For it is a land of idols; They are besotted by their dread images. Assuredly, Wildcats and hyenas shall dwell [there], And ostriches shall dwell there; It shall never be settled again, Nor inhabited throughout the ages. Jeremiah 50:38-39 

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, emphasized that it is precisely during the holiday of Sukkoth that the world is judged on how much rain it will receive in the upcoming year.

“It is clear that what is happening in Syria is the prophecy of Jeremiah,” Rabbi Berger said. “God loves all of creation but nations are judged on how they relate to Israel. In this case, Syria has much to repent for. As we are seeing more and more signs of geula (redemption) appearing precisely as prophesied, it is important to remember the prophecies and not get distracted by our own interpretations. People are focusing on the pandemic and the vaccine but missing the message implicit in the plague. People see the drought but miss the meaning which could actually contain the solution.”

“The simple message is to make Hashem one and his name one,” Rabbi Berger said.

It is interesting to note that Jeremiah’s Syria prophecy is appearing just as an art exhibit in London’s Chisenhale Gallery recreates a colonnade from the pagan temple of Palmyra, Syria. The Iranian-born, Montreal-based artist Abbas Akhavan came up with the idea of this colonnade when he saw an image of then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson unveiling a replica of the Palmyra Arch in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2016.  

The model cited by the artist was a 28-meter tall 3-D printed model created by the Institute for Digital Archeology representing the famous arch of the original Temple of Palmyra in Syria that was displayed in London as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Week. The arch was a pagan Roman structure that stood in front of the Temple of Ba’al 2,000 years ago to honor the god of orgies and child sacrifice. The temple and the original arch were destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2015. Though the organizers claimed the event was a symbol of protest against religious extremism, it coincided with Beltane, the major festival for the worship of Ba’al.

Both Christian and Muslim eschatology include prophecies of the drying up of the Euphrates signaling the end-of-days. In Islam, some of the hadiths suggest that the Euphrates will dry up, revealing unknown treasures that will be the cause of strife and war. In the Christian Book of Revelation, it is prophesied that in the ” near future the Potamos Euphrates or “breaking forth like water” of the middle east will dry up in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon.