The Ark Encounter and Two Competing Approaches to Miracles

March 1 2023

Located in Williamstown, Kentucky and opened in 2016, the Ark Encounter theme park features a 500-foot-long replica of Noah’s biblical vessel, complete with live animals and detailed exhibits. The organization behind it is an evangelical Christian group committed to the belief that the earth is about 6,000 years old, in keeping with a literal reading of Genesis. After a recent visit, Natan Slifkin compares the theme park’s approach to the supernatural elements of the Flood story with those of both medieval rabbis and contemporary Ḥaredim:

The Ark Encounter has some theological messages (largely Christian), but its primary focus is about the logistics of the ark. How did it work? How did all the animals fit on it? How did they survive without the conditions that they require in the wild? What did they eat? How did Noah and his family look after them all? How was there light [in their stalls]? How was there ventilation? How did all the animals get back home afterwards? How did they survive on their way back home through various habitats? With tremendous ingenuity and effort (and a willingness utterly to disregard science and plausibility), the Ark Encounter does not shy away from these questions, and instead tackles them in great detail and with fabulously creative exhibits.

Contrast that with the modern ḥaredi approach. [For instance], Rabbi Moshe Meiselman goes to the opposite extreme: he explains at length that the logistics don’t work at all, and therefore the whole thing must have been miraculous. . . . Ironically, it is the fundamentalist Christian approach which is more similar to traditional Judaism.

Let’s start with the Pentateuch. While the unleashing of the Flood is presented as a supernatural act, and there is a description of the animals arriving on their own (which is probably intended to be supernatural), there is no mention of anything miraculous regarding the ark. On the contrary, it is described as being huge, which is logistically necessary to contain many creatures, and covered with pitch, for the logistics of waterproofing.

Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben of Gerona (1320–1376) says that there were far fewer types of animals back then; the current multitude rapidly evolved from those that survived on the ark. The same approach is adopted by Rabbi David Luria (1798–1855). . . . This is the exact approach presented in the Ark Encounter.

Read more at Rationalist Judaism

More about: Evangelical Christianity, Hebrew Bible, Museums, Noah

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship