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November 03, 1989 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-11-03

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Earthquakes: Seismography in Our History

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

Then the earth did
shake and quake, the foun-
dations also of the moun-
tains did tremble.
Psalms 18:7

The earth reeleth to and fro
like a drunken man, and
swayeth to and fro as a
lodge; and the trans-
gression thereof is heavy
upon it.
Isaiah 24:2

E

arthquakes are in history from
time immemorial. They are
mentioned in Scriptures and the
Prophets comment upon the ex-
periences. They are in our records com-
monly referred to as the Old Testament,
and there is reference to the occurrences
in the New Testament, as in Revela-
tions 8:5: "There were voices, and
thunderings, and lightnings, and an
earthquake."
The manner in which the ground
vibrations "extend into antiquity" as
earthquakes is recorded in an ac-
cumulated record assembled in the En-
cyclopedia Judaica. In the current ex-
perience that is now shocking us in the
reports from Oakland, San Francisco
and other California areas, we are pro-

vided with the numberless occurrences
in human history. The Encyclopedia
Judaica record is worth studying in
relation to the current shocking news:
In biblical times earth-
quakes, like thunder and other
natural cataclysms, were
regarded as demonstrations of
God's unlimited power. It was
believed that the phenomenon
preceded divine manifestations
(I Kings 19:11-12; Isa. 6:4; Ezek.
3:12-13), the revelation at Sinai
(Ex. 19:18), divine wrath (Ps. 18:8;
104:8), and collective punish-
ment (I Sam. 14:15; Isa. 5:25; Nah.
1:5; 16:32; Amos 9:1), and it was
also envisaged as heralding the
end of the world (Ezek. 38:19-20).
The descriptions of earth-
quakes in the Bible — especial-
ly by prophets — indicate that
such cataclysms occurred from
time to time and that people
were therefore familiar with
their consequences. The almost
scientific description of the
phenomenon at earth disloca-
tion and cracking related in a
prophecy of wrath (Zech. 14:4-5),
might be based on a personal
experience of an earthquake.
Because of its powerful im-
pact, the major earthquake
which occurred toward the end
of King Uzziah's reign (about 800

B.C.E.) was referred to for some
time in date references (Amos
1:1; Zech. 14:5). In 31 B.C.E. a
disastrous tremor in Judea
claimed 10,000 to 30,000 victims
(Jos., Ant., 15:122).
During the last 2,000 years,
earthquakes in Palestine and its
neighborhood have been
recorded in greater detail (see
bibl. Amiran, 1951; Shalem, 1951;
Arieh, 1967). These records
reveal that, on the average,
several damaging earthquakes
have occurred in each century,
but usually only one reached
disastrous proportions.
Seismological observatories
have been operated by the
Geological Survey of Israel
since 1955, and by the Weizmann
Institute of Science since 1969.
Recent seismographic
measurements indicate that
most earthquake epicenters are
situated in or near the Jordan
Rift Valley, an area where the
two most destructive earth-
quakes since the 19th century
originated.
The earthquake on Jan. 1,
1837, whose epicenter was near
Safed, took about 5,000 victims,
ruined much of the old city, and
was strongly felt from Beirut to
Jerusalem. On July 11, 1927, an

earthquake occurred north of
Jericho violently affecting vast
areas from Lebanon to the
Negev, and in Transjordan kill-
ing about 350 persons and ruin-
ing some 800 structures (mainly
in Shechem) .. .
There is another important en-
cyclopedic reference to earthquakes
that merits mentioning. It calls atten-
tion to the following:
Tiberias was severly damag-
ed by the violent earthquake of
1837, which destroyed most of
the 16th-century city wall and
caused the death of many in-
habitants (according to one
source, 1,000 Jews then lost their
lives). Many of the surviving
Jews fled to Jerusalem, but
returned to Tiberias in the
following years; in 1839 the city
had 600 Jewish inhabitants.
On the site of the old settle-
ment, in addition to the in-
habitants belonging to the old
yishuv, a modern Jewish com-
munity was established, given
impetus with the founding of
Jewish villages in the surroun-
ding areas in eastern Lower
Galilee at the beginning of the
20th century.
We must judge as comforting and

Continued on Page 48

Multiple USSR Cover-Ups On Raoul Wallenberg

or 40 years the USSR has been
hiding facts about Raoul Wallen-
berg, his detention and ac-
cumulating persecuting details. Now
comes another attempt to "bury" the
facts.
So many distortions have become
evident in the treatment of a case that
has become internationally significant
that the latest USSR assertions have
added to the suspicions about Kremlin
responses to demands for the truth.
There are many, especially members of
the Wallenberg family, who continue to
believe, on the basis of reports of former
Lubiyanka prisoners, that the famous
hero of World War II is still alive.
Therefore an accumulation of ac-
cusations by an eminent student of
world affairs is vital to the Wallenberg
record. William Korey, director, interna-

F

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Vol. XCVI No. 10

2

November 3, 1989

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1989

tional research, of B'nai B'rith, in a let-
ter published in the New York Times
Oct. 24, presented these facts:
Your Moscow dispatch con-
cerning the Wallenberg case
("Soviets Give Kin Wallenberg
Papers," Oct. 17) requires a small
calendrical correction. It begins
by saying that Raoul Wallenberg
disappeared into the gulag
"more than 45 years" ago. In fact
he disappeared on Jan. 17, 1945,
while on his way to see Soviet
Marshal Rodion Malinovsky in
Debrecen, Hungary. Jan. 17,
1990, will mark the 45th anniver-
sary of that tragic event.
Secondly, the article states
that Wallenberg was 35 years
old at the time of his disap-
pearance and 37 when he was
alleged to have died of a heart
attack in July 1947. In fact, he
was two years younger in both
instances, which makes even
more incredible the K.G.B. in-
sistence that he had suffered a
coronary.
Incredulity is compounded
by Soviet insistence — ar-
ticulated last June in Paris at
the Helsinki-sponsored "Human
Dimension Conference" — that
"we know nothing new" about
Wallenberg's arrest, incarcera-
tion or reported death.
The mind-boggling denial is
of a piece with earlier Soviet
distortions. Soon after

Raoul Wallenberg

Wallenberg's apprehension,
Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister
Vladimir Dekanosov told the
Swedes that. "Russian military
authorities have taken
measures to protect Raoul
Wallenberg and his belongings?'
The Soviet Ambassador in
Stockholm, Alexandra Kollon-
tai, told Wallenberg's mother
her son was safe in Russia and
would return soon.
But two years later, the
notorious Andrei Vyshinsky,
now deputy foreigh minister,
declared on Aug. 18, 1947, that
"Wallenberg is not in the Soviet
Union and is unknown to us." As

for Dekanosov's earlier report,
it was allegedly based upon
misleading information.
Early in 1948, the semiof-
ficial Foreign Ministry weekly,
New Times, denounced as
"fables" reports that the "Soviet
secret police" were holding
Wallenberg. The lie was con-
tinued for another nine years.
Finally, after persistent
Swedish inquiries based on new
documentation, in February
1957 the deputy foreign minister
announced that Wallenberg had
died a decade earlier but that
the key witnesses had in the
meantime died or were executed
for "anti-state crimes?' Last
June, the Soviet ambassador to
the Helsinki talks in Paris
declared that those responsible
for "destroying such persons as
Wallenberg, also destroyed the
documents:'
Clearly, the cover-up is con-
tinuing. President Mikhail Gor-
bachev's challenge that the
"blank spots" in Soviet history
should be filled in has a special
relevancy for the Wallenberg
episode.
There will surely be a continuing
insistence that the Soviet authorities
reveal the true record and the realities
about the treatment that was accorded
Raoul Wallenberg. His persecution will
remain an indictment of the Russian
Communist leaders. ❑

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