Top national religious rabbi says deadly quake in Turkey, Syria is divine justice

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who is close to Itamar Ben Gvir and the father of a far-right minister, says disaster ‘cleanses the world, makes it better’; some rabbis aghast at comments

Feb 11, 2023

Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu, a prominent figure in Israel’s national religious movement, said in a Friday column that a devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria earlier this week, killing tens of thousands, was “divine justice.”

In the article published in Olam Katan, a popular conservative religious right-wing weekly newsletter, Eliyahu, who has close ties to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, compared the earthquake to the drowning of the Egyptian forces in the Red Sea in the biblical story of Exodus.

“There is no doubt that those who would have seen the Egyptians drowning in the sea and who did not remember the whole event from beginning to end would have been filled with great pity for them and would have tried to save them from drowning,” Eliyahu wrote.

“But the Israelites sang songs because they knew the Egyptians, and understood that these drowners wanted to kill some of them and to continue to enslave the rest. They sang songs because they understood that there was divine justice here intended to punish the Egyptians, who had drowned the children of the people of Israel in the Nile, so that all the wicked in the world would see and be afraid,” he said.

Turning to the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which has killed at least 28,000 people in Turkey and neighboring Syria, Eliyahu said: “God is judging all the nations around us who wanted to invade our land several times and throw us into the sea.”

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