Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of about what the Bible says about climate change in the Middle East. Last week, WND published the first report titled, “What the Bible says about Arabian desert.”
WASHINGTON – Faced with four years of drought in Israel, David Lau, the chief rabbi of the Jewish state, decided it was time to do something about the situation right after the new year.
Joined just over a week ago by other leading rabbis, including Shlomo Didi and Idan Greenbaum, he stood on the banks of Lake Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee and, along with farmers from a local kibbutz and students from the region’s schools, directed prayers for rainfall to God.
“We must remember that we are one people, and there is one Kinneret for all of us, and, as one nation, we all hope that our prayers will be answered though brotherhood and friendship, and we will merit a winter that will come to be rainy, and that the blessing of Heaven will rest upon all of us.”
Within 24 hours, unusually heavy rains were falling – with alerts issued for possible flash flooding. About 100 millimeters of rain fell the next day. The lake’s water level rose nearly a half-inch.
It was not the first time Lau had offered up prayers for rain to the Almighty. He had done so a week earlier at the Western Wall in Jerusalem just before the new year, Thursday, Dec. 28, with hundreds joining him, including Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. By Monday, the lake, by far Israel’s biggest source of fresh water, had risen .40 inches.
The rain prayers touched off a ferocious debate between secularists and the faithful in Israel – with left-wing Haaretz journalist Rogel Alpher writing, “Anyone who prays for rain is an idiot.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan quickly responded with a Facebook post: “In short, I’m sorry to tell our friends at Haaretz, but as a believing Jew for whom the prayers for rain have always been exciting, I will continue together with the entire Jewish people to pray for rain. May we have a good and rainy winter — with G-d’s help.”
Amid this controversy, WND has discovered an unpublished report that seemingly correlates rainfall patterns with waves of Jewish immigration into Israel – raising the question of whether Israelis should also be praying for a greater Aliya.
Using rainfall data gathered at the Israel Meteorology Center in Jerusalem and corroborated as valid by Hadas Saaroni, a climatologist and head of the Department of Geography and the Human Environment at Tel Aviv University, Gary Auld of Perth, Australia, embarked on a study that tracked historical Israeli rainfall patterns from the 1940s through 2014 with Jews “making Aliya,” or immigrating to Israel from around the world.
Based on two major surges of Jewish immigration into Israel in the 20th century, Auld concludes there is a connection – with rainfall increases coinciding with them or preceding them by four years.
In his study, “Jerusalem Rain vs Aliyah,” he concludes, “That the annual rainfall in Jerusalem since the rebirth of the State of Israel, and the flow of the Aliyah over the same period, have similar trends.”
Auld is a Bible-believing evangelical Christian and a retired mining engineer who used the same quality control techniques employed in his previous job, he began researching the proposition on a spiritual hunch. He refers to his research as a “skeletal study” and is quick to say he boasts no formal theological credentials.
“For those who fear HaShem (the Name of God) there is no problem in believing that there could be a correlation between these apparently disassociated phenomena because they are based on His promises,” Auld is quick to point out. “However, those who reject HaShem would not entertain the idea of this ‘absurd’ correlation.”
The promise Auld refers to comes in both Deuteronomy 11:14 and Deuteronomy 28:12:
- Deuteronomy 11:14: “That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.”
- Deuteronomy 28:12: “The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.”
The biggest explosion in Jewish immigration came not in the 1940s or the 1960s, but in the 1990s, with the massive influx of Jews from the Soviet Union and the former Soviet nations. And that’s where Auld found the biggest spike in rainfall.
Many have suggested, based on historical and biblical evidence, that when the Israeli diaspora began in the latter part of the first century, the climate changed.
What had been a lush and fertile land, called “a land of milk and honey” in the Bible, endured a 1,800-year desertification process as rainfall levels plummeted.
First-century Roman Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who knew the area well, wrote about the climate in Israel at the time in his book series, “The Jewish Wars: Book 3” (chapter 10:8).
“Its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men’s expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year.”
But, by 1869, Mark Twain famously visited the Holy Land and wrote about it in his book, “Innocents Abroad”: “Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent.”
Twain called it “… [a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds … a silent mournful expanse. … a desolation. … we never saw a human being on the whole route. … hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
What happened to the land of Israel in the period between?
Certainly, land-use studies in the Middle East show the prevalence of crops and forests, which were suited to cooler, wetter climates in the period before 1000 B.C. From the Bible, we learn that Israel was a land capable of growing fruit, vegetables and grains in abundance when the Jews entered following the 40-year Exodus journey. It was a highly coveted piece of forested real estate with rich farmland.
A Brooklyn rabbi named Menachem Kohen, author of “Prophecies for the Era of Muslim Terror,” also examined the mystery of Israel’s apparent climate change in that period. Kohen points out the land suffered an unprecedented, severe and inexplicable (by anything other than supernatural explanations) drought that lasted from the first century, following the forced dispersion of the Jews, until the 20th.
Kohen sees this as a miraculous fulfillment of prophecy found in the book of Deuteronomy – especially chapter 28:23-24: “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”
During this 660,000-day drought, the land was sparsely populated. But no one even tracked the rainfall for most of that time.
Yet, in 2008, an international team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Hebrew University and Geological Survey of Israel, both of Jerusalem, examined changes of oxygen isotopes in layers of rock formations concluded the data suggested Israel’s climate experienced noticeable drying between 100 AD and 700 AD., with dramatic dips in rainfall between 100 AD and 400 A.D. It raised questions about whether climate change was involved in the decline of the Roman Empire that fell around 476 A.D. and the weakening of the Byzantine Empire between 600 AD and 700 A.D.
In the 600s, with the rise of Islam, the caliphs took greater Syria and Egypt away from Byzantium. In first century after Islam was founded, its adherents spread with lightning speed to take over the southern third of the old Roman Empire, as well as the entirety of the Sasanid Empire of Iran. The Muslim conquests after 632 CE are rivaled in history for their speed and extent only by the 13th-century Mongol expansion. A theory emerged that since the Arab Muslims were better at dealing with the dry climate they may have had advantages in logistics and fighting techniques, since Bedouin tribesmen of Arabia that were the core of the Arab Muslim army had been used to raiding across arid territory.
The work involved geochemical analysis of a stalagmite from the Soreq Cave in the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Jerusalem, where rain flushed organic matter from the surface into the cave, and it was trapped in mineral deposits that formed layers on the stalagmite. Geology graduate student Ian Orland determined the falling rainfall for the years the stalagmite was growing, from approximately 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D.
While Auld’s research is limited to rainfall in Jerusalem, one of the drier regions of Israel, another study, of rainfall charts including the Galilee areas, conducted by Joseph Farah, founder of WND and author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” showed big increases coinciding with the Zionist movement in the late 19th century, with significant bursts of precipitation measurements in the years 1947-48, coinciding with Israel’s renewed nationhood status, and 1967-68, coinciding with the Six-Day War in which Israel recaptured Jerusalem.
“Look at a topographical map of the Middle East some time,” Farah wrote. “What you will see is an almost entirely arid, desert climate identified by that sandy color that makes you thirsty just looking at it. The notable exception is Israel – a beautiful green color with the exception of the Judean desert. It’s hardly the vast, barren wasteland described so artfully by Mark Twain during his sojourn through the Holy Land in the 19th century. So, what happened to make the deserts bloom, including much of the Judean desert today, as they have and as they were prophesied to do in Isaiah 35?”
Ten years ago, Farah studied rainfall data beginning in the early 1800s, leading up to the 1960s.
“What I found was astonishing – increasing rainfall almost every single year – with the heaviest rainfall coming in and around 1948, coinciding with the rebirth of Israel as a nation, and 1967, coinciding with the Jews’ recapture of Jerusalem,” he wrote. “What this means is that the rains came as the population of Jews began returning to their land. Jewish immigration to Palestine, as the region was known then, began in earnest in the 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, it increased significantly, along with the Zionist movement. The rains followed the return of the Jewish people.”
Farah’s study inspired messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, a multiple New York Times bestselling author, to record a teaching on “The Mystery of the Rains.”
Cahn had this to say about the latest findings: “The Word of God reveals that with the nation of Israel, the physical realm is linked to the spiritual. The land of Israel is linked to covenant and relationship of the children of Israel to God. Thus it is revealed that if the children of Israel turn away from God, the land of Israel will suffer. On the other hand, if they turn back to God, the land is blessed.”
“One of the curses clearly foretold concerning Israel is the withholding of the rain on the land,” Cahn added in an interview with WND. “In the days of Elijah, Israel turned away from God to Baal. At the same time, the heavens were shut up and a drought came on the land. But Elijah led the people back to God on top of Mount Carmel. On the same day, the drought came to an end, the rains returned to the land. When believers tell the story of the cloud that signaled the return of the rains, they generally focus on the issue of faith. But the entire account is based on the connection between the return of the Jewish people and the return of the rains. It is the same phenomenon that this new information is confirming.”
He concluded: “An added factor to this phenomenon is the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel. Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people were scattered to the ends of the earth. At the same, and according to the ancient Scriptures, the land of Israel literally dried up and withered away. Yet the Word of God declared that in the last days the Jewish people would return to the land – and when they did, the land that had been a barren wasteland would again become fruitful. The desert would literally blossom as a rose – In other words, the rains would return to the land. To see all the signs and data confirming the biblical phenomenon and the ancient prophecies is nothing short of amazing.”
Mark Biltz is the Israel-centric pastor of El Shaddai Ministries in Washington state and the author of numerous books including his latest, “God’s Day Timer.” He had this to say about the latest study linking Aliya and rainfall in Israel: “The huge downturn in the rains from 1993-1996 sounds like the results of the Oslo peace accords signed with Yasser Arafat and the nation of Jordan. Amos 4:7 mentions God withholding rain and Zechariah 10:1 tells us to ask for rain in the time of rain. But the biggie to me would be Zechariah 14, where rain is withheld from those nations that do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the world.”
But all this begs the question of why Israel would today be mired in a four-year period of drought. Actually, if Auld’s theory about Jewish immigration being correlated to rainfall, it would make some sense.
Jewish Immigration has been falling since 2000, until a slight upturn in 2017, with new arrivals from the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine. The number of immigrants arriving from France continued to drop in 2017 after peaking two years ago. All told, Jewish immigration into Israel was up only 5 percent overall in 2017, with a total of 28,400 immigrants arriving in the country by year’s end.
In 2016, immigration dropped by 13 percent because of a sharp downturn in the number of Jews arriving from France. A considerable number of French Jews who immigrated to Israel in recent years have actually moved back because of relocation difficulties.
In other words, the last four years have not been great for Jewish immigration. The big years were the 1990s, leading up to declines beginning in 2000.
While the Israeli Jewish population hit 6,556,000 in 2017, the growth is overwhelmingly attributed to a high birth rate for Jewish couples. Israel is now home to about half the world’s Jewish population. The total population is 8,793,000.
As for the country’s non-Jewish population, 1,837,000 are Arabs, making up 21 percent of the total population. Another 400,000, meanwhile, are non-Arab Christians and people who are not classified by religion in the census, making up 4 percent of the population.
In 2017, Israel’s population grew by 165,000, with 180,000 babies born—74 percent of them Jewish, 23 percent Arabs and 3 percent non-Arab Christians or not classified by religion—and 44,000 people passing away.