A sinkhole in Iran (courtesy Building and Housing Research Center in Tehran)

A sinkhole in Iran (courtesy Building and Housing Research Center in Tehran)

Iran’s capital of Tehran, a city of 13 million people, is sinking – fast.

That’s the assessment of geo-scientists Mahdi Motagh and Mahmud Haghshenas Haghighi of the German Research Centre in Potsdam who used satellite data images to monitor subsidence across the region between 20013 and 1017 that show the land sinking radically due to depletion of groundwater aquifers, shows a recent report in Nature.com.

But, given the radical Shiite regime’s regular threats against Israel, some rabbis see the possibility of divine retribution – reminding them of the biblical challenge to Moses in Numbers 16 by Korah, who was swallowed up by the earth along with his followers.

The collapse is spreading now to encompass the city’s airport by up to 10 inches a year.

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But an impending catastrophe is much more widespread across the entire western Tehran Plain including the urban area, satellite cities and the southwest Varamin Plain, an agricultural area that supports it.

“These are amongst some of the highest current rates of subsidence in the world,” says Roberto Tomás, an engineer at the University of Alicante in Spain.

Huge fissures – several miles in length and up to 12-feet wide and deep – have opened up in the land to the southeast of Tehran, some of which are threatening to topple power-transmission lines and buckle railways.

“When walking around these areas, we see uneven street surfaces, shifted curbs, cracks in the walls and even tilted buildings, some of which have had to be demolished,” reports Motagh.

The growth of underground cracks sometimes produces sudden sinkholes.

“One farmer I met was locked up for hours when the ground gave way beneath him and he fell into a six-meter-deep crack,” says Ali Beitollahi, head of engineering seismology at the Building and Housing Research Center in Tehran.

Such farmland is becoming unviable, because the cracks drain irrigation water from the surface and leave crops parched.

The cracks and fissures threaten an area that hosts more than 100 miles of railway, 2,000 miles of roads, 21 bridges, 30 miles of oil pipeline, nearly 200 miles of gas pipeline, 60 miles of high-voltage electricity lines and more than 250,000 buildings.

To make matters worse, Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, being crossed by several major faults that cover at least 90 percent of the country. As a result, earthquakes in Iran occur often and are destructive.

“We don’t always know why things happen but when we look back, we can frequently see that some events we thought were insignificant were actually small sparks that set off a large explosion,” Rabbi Pichas Winston told Breaking Israel News about the report. “What is true is that anti-Semitism is always followed by economic depression and frequently by disaster.”

Winston believes Tehran’s dilemma is clearly part of divine intervention but added a strong disclaimer.

“Everything that happens in the world is divine intervention,” he said. “But we absolutely cannot ascribe a specific meaning to it. One day it could be Tehran sinking and the next it could be a city in California. The judgments are for God to make.”

Winston reminds the public that Iran’s water shortage has been well-documented. He notes in June, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered Israeli water technology to Iran.

“But they wouldn’t take anything from ‘the Zionists,’” he said. “This anti-Semitism clearly made their current problem worse.”

At the time, Netanyahu said: “The Iranian people are victims of a cruel and tyrannical regime that denies them vital water. Israel stands with the people of Iran.”

Rabbi Ben Artzi told Breaking Israel News that God operates in the world via nature.

“God is hidden in the world but operates through the natural forces that He created,” he said. “Through fire, earthquakes, winds, volcanoes – through every natural force. This is how God operates for countries, but for the individual, he works through his body.”

This is particularly true of Iran, the rabbi said.

“Every time Iran rises up against Israel, it will get hit by Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’) – hit hard,” Artzi said.

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, said he has mixed feelings about the crisis in Iran.

“It makes me happy to hear that Iran is having this problem,” he said. “Not that I, God forbid, wish the people of Iran harm. There are enough reasons for them to disappear into the ground but the way this is coming into the world, as a gradual process, gives the people a chance to do tshuva (repentance) in order to avert disaster.”

He sees a parallel between the news and the biblical story of Korah and his followers who were swallowed up in the desert for challenging Moses and Aaron.

“Since the Holocaust, there has not been any nation that has declared their intention to destroy the Jewish people like Iran has,” he said. “Anyone who speaks out this way, wanting to wipe out another nation, Hashem will cause the earth to swallow them up. Everything they think that makes them great as a nation will simply disappear.”

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