JERUSALEM – While most religious authorities seem to agree one cannot discern the intentions of God, there has been talk in some circles here and on the Internet that the storm that turned parts of the Gulf Coast into a disaster zone, prompting hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes and possibly causing upwards of 10,000 deaths, was thrust upon the U.S. for its support of the Gaza evacuation.
"Katrina is a consequence of the destruction of [Gaza's] Gush Katif [slate of Jewish communities] with America's urging and encouragement," Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Lewin, executive director of the Rabbinic Congress for Peace, told WND. "The U.S. should have discouraged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from implementing the Gaza evacuation rather than pushing for it and pressuring Israel into concessions."
Lewin is one of many rabbis in Israel and abroad who have been making similar statements both in private and in speeches to their congregations.
Rabbi Joseph Garlitzky, head of the international Chabad Lubavitch movement's Tel Aviv synagogue, recounted for WND a pulpit speech he gave this past Sabbath:
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"We don't have prophets who can tell us exactly what are God's ways, but when we see something so enormous as Katrina, I would say [President] Bush and [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice need to make an accounting of their actions, because something was done wrong by America in a big way. And here there are many obvious connections between the storm and the Gaza evacuation, which came right on top of each other. No one has permission to take away one inch of the land of Israel from the Jewish people."
Abraham, the biblical father of the Jews, received this promise from God in the book of Genesis: "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
One week before Katrina made landfall, Israel carried out the evacuation of 9,500 residents from Gush Katif and four Samaria communities. Residents were forced from their homes by Israeli troops, some dragged away kicking and screaming and placed on buses that took them from the area. The majority of former Katif residents are currently homeless while the Israeli government struggles to find permanent housing solutions.
The Gaza withdrawal was backed by the U.S. government. Some Middle East analysts and senior Israeli politicians entirely attributed the evacuation plan to pressure coming from the American establishment.
Gaza family stands on balcony awaiting forcible removal. (Photo: WND)
"I welcome the disengagement plan," stated Bush immediately following the announcement of the Gaza evacuation. "These steps will mark real progress toward realizing the vision I set forth in June 2002 of two states living side by side in peace and security."
Now, Garlitzky and many others here and on the Internet are pointing to what they call eerie similarities between Katrina and the evacuation of Gush Katif, including parallels in events, names and numbers:
- Close to 10,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria. Katrina's death toll is now expected to reach at least 10,000.
- America's population ratio to Israel is about 50:1. Ten thousand Jews who lost their Gaza homes is the equivalent of about 500,000 Americans who are now reported to be displaced as result of Katrina.
New Orleans residents bob in flood waters awaiting rescue. (Photo: Times-Picayune)
- Gaza's Jewish communities were located in Israel's southern coastal region; America's southern coastal region now lies in ruins.
- The U.S. government called on Louisiana residents to evacuate their homes ahead of the storm. The Israeli government, backed by statements from U.S. officials, demanded Gaza residents evacuate their homes.
- Katrina, written in Hebrew, has a numerical equivalent of 374, according to a biblical numbering system upheld by all traditional Jewish authorities. Two relevant passages in the Torah share the exact numerical equivalent: "They have done you evil" (Gen. 50:17) and "The sea upon land" (Exodus 14:15).
- Bush, from Texas, and Rice, from Alabama, were the most vocal U.S. backers of the Gaza evacuation. Hurricane Katrina hit the states in between Texas and Alabama – Louisiana and Mississippi.
- Similarity in scenes: Many residents of Jewish Gaza climbed to their rooftops to escape the threat of expulsion, while residents of the Gulf Coast climbed on their own rooftops to protect themselves from the rising waters. Jewish Gaza homes described as beautiful and charming were demolished this week by Israel's military. Once beautiful homes in New Orleans now lie in ruins.
- The day Katrina hit, Israel began carrying out what was termed the most controversial aspect of the Gaza withdrawal – the uprooting of bodies from the area's Jewish cemetery. There have been media reports of corpses floating around in flooded New Orleans regions.
- Citizens of Israel were barred from entering Gush Katif; people were only allowed to leave Jewish Gaza. As Katrina was making landfall U.S. authorities barred citizens from entering the affected areas. People were only allowed out.
- Gush Katif was an important agricultural area for Israel, providing the Jewish state with 70 percent of its produce. A New Orleans port that exported much of the Midwest's agricultural production was destroyed by Katrina.
The connections have caused a firestorm of speculation on Internet blogs and in chat rooms.
In a Jerusalem Newswire op-ed discussing the similarities just before Katrina made landfall, writer Stan Goodenough commented, "Is this some sort of bizarre coincidence? Not for those who believe in the God of the Bible and the immutability of His Word. What America is about to experience is the lifting of God's hand of protection, the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel.
"While the 'disengagement' plan was purportedly the brainchild of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the U.S. has for more than a decade been the chief sponsor and propeller of a diplomatic process that has dangerously weakened Israel in the face of an overwhelming, growing threat to annihilate her. ... Can't you see the link, America? Won't you see the link?"
Another Newswire piece quoted a Christian Louisiana resident in Katrina's direct path as stating, "[The hurricane is] a direct 'coming back on us' [for] what we did to Israel: a home for a home."
A blog on TheRaphi.com by Mideast pundits Paul Eidelberg and Israel Hanukoglu linking Katrina to the Gaza evacuation warned, "We urge the American people to remind their president that the evil the nations do to Israel always strikes them. Pharaoh, Haman, Hitler and all the leaders of nations that have opposed the will of God for His people have perished or ended on the ash heaps of history."
Billye Brim, a Christian prayer leader and founder of Billye Brim Ministries who had visited Gush Katif weeks before its evacuation, noted on her website: "Is there a connection between [Katrina and Gush Katif]? I believe so. Is this judgment? I believe so. And I must say it. Outright! Many won't like to hear it. Many won't agree. But I believe America is in danger and something has to be done. ... America needs to repent. From Bush, Rice and the State Department on down. America must repent for actively opposing God's plan for Israel as revealed in His Word."
WorldNetDaily the past week has received numerous letters from readers urging a Katrina-Gaza connection.
One letter stated, " I think you all are dancing around the real cause of the hurricane. Let me suggest to you that it is the wrath of God on our nation because President Bush pressured Sharon to take the homes from the Jews. ... I knew we would be punished on a large scale. I faxed letters and contacted Bush every way I could begging him not to go forward with that plan to evacuate Gaza but he did so anyway, and as a result we were hit in a week with a hurricane that will make history."
Perhaps the first to publicly connect Katrina to the Gaza evacuation was famed Israeli conspiracy theorist Barry Chamish, who sent a mass e-mail noting, "GUsh is like GUlf, and KATif is like KATrina. If you take 'KAT' from KATif and KATrina, you are left with 'IF' and 'RAIN.' If you support Gush Katif evacuation, it will rain."
Chamish told WND yesterday: "Simple human beings cannot fully understand what is going on, but the events certainly must be connected. It's statistically impossible to have two such great natural disasters like the recent tsunami in Asia and Katrina right after each other. This is the hand of God. He is saying something."
Jerusalem Kabbalist Rabbi David Batzri drew the parallel: "Divine retribution is meted out according to the principle of 'measure for measure,' just as the Jews were forced out of their homes as a result of U.S. pressure on Israel, so too are Americans being forced out of their homes."
But Rabbi Mordechai Greenwald, leader of a Jerusalem synagogue, said connections between the Gaza evacuation and Katrina should not be made.
"No rabbi can tell you why such a disaster struck," Greenwald told WND. "Doing so, making these statements, is dangerous and counterproductive. There have been debates the past 50 years for the reason of the Holocaust, and we still don't know what it was about. Some things we are not meant to know."
Greenwald said the religious leaders who publicly blame Katrina on U.S. support of the withdrawal "do not speak for the majority of rabbis. We cannot say who is being punished for what."
Meanwhile, some are urging the U.S. to ensure against what they say will be further damage in Gaza.
Lewin of the Congress for Peace told WND: "There are news reports that weather centers in the U.S. have predicted additional hurricanes on the way, some maybe even stronger than Katrina. Bush and Rice still have a chance to stem the tide of further punishment by at least pressing for Gaza not to be turned over to the Palestinians, which will allow terrorists to occupy the area that Israel evacuated. Although the damage of the destruction of Gush Katif was done, letting it serve as a terrorist base for al-Qaida and other anti-American and anti-Israeli groups will only bring more destruction and chaos in the region and the world over."
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