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Israelis jarred by mention of crash scene in Scripture

JERUSALEM, Feb. 11 (JTA) — Was last week’s tragic helicopter crash that killed 73 Israeli servicemen foretold in Scripture? That is the question on the minds of many Israelis, who were more than a bit unnerved to find a reference to the name Sha’ar Yishuv — the northern farming settlement over which the Feb. 4 crash took place — in the preceding week’s Haftorah, the reading from Scripture that accompanies the weekly Torah portion. The passage, in Isaiah 7:3-4, read: “Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Sha’ar Yishuv thy son … and say to him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted on account of the two tails of these smoking firebrands.” Many believe that the “tails of these smoking firebrands” is a direct reference to the two helicopters that collided in mid-air and then caught fire. Although some religious figures said the passage foretells the crash, others were quick to downplay what they admitted was a more than passing coincidence. Gary Shapiro, faculty chairman of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, expressed the opinion of many Israelis. “I don’t reflexively reject anything,” he said. “However, I think we have to be very cautious about drawing a one-to-one correspondence between Biblical verses and real-life events. “This caution comes from both a humility about what the Torah is referring to, and a deep concern for how an interpretation will be used.” In one interpretation of the perceived correlation between event and Scripture, Shapiro said, “It could be construed that God was behind the crash. A lot of people, especially families who lost loved ones, could find this upsetting and offensive.”