The Ark Encounter and Two Competing Approaches to Miracles

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

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy