• Rabbi Yisroel Zaltzman

Swords Into Plowshares

IN THE LAST WEEK of January 1992, President George Bush announced that he would be redirecting a major portion of the United States military budget into agriculture and other peace­time uses.

That Friday, the world witnessed the Bush-Yeltsin handshake that signified the end of the Cold War. Among other world leaders, they were meeting at a conference of the Security Council at the United Nations. They declared that a new era had begun with regard to the relations of world nations, an era free of war between countries. This new era was to be expressed in armament reduction and a general alliance between all nations to aid each other for the good of all mankind.

On the following day, the Rebbe's Sabbath discourse referred to these events in the context of the coming of Moshiach. One of the prophecies of the Messianic Redemption is "And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift sword against nation and they will study war no more." 1 The Rebbe said that the recent announcements of super­power disarmament and the redirecting of military budgets to food aid are a clear sign that the fulfillment of this prophecy has begun. The Rebbe also stated that this is the beginning of the effect of Moshiach on the nations. But the Swords to Plowshares story did not stop with political announcements.

The US Army went straight to work. The late Dr. Naftali Berg a’h, was a Lubavitcher Chassid and the director of research of the advanced technology office of the army research center at the pentagon. In a 1993 lecture he gave, on what was then a mere 500 million dollar program of swords to plowshares R&D, he cited 4 satellite programs that are being transferred from spy purposes to agricultural purposes: LANDSAT, LANDTM, ERS1, and the French SPOT system. These satellites now detect mineral, petroleum and water resources under the earth's surface, they evaluate soil types and agricultural methods for food production and forestry.

2Now several years into the program, by analyzing a complex of environmental factors these satellites have even been successful in providing information that has proved essential to limiting the spread of cholera and other epidemics.

3Another swords to plowshares pioneer is professor Alvin Radkowsky, a former US chief naval scientist who designed nuclear projects for the United States navy. Now a Professor at Tel Aviv University, he has designed a new kind of nuclear reactor that neither uses nor produces materials from which to make nuclear bombs.

This is truly a nuclear reactor for the era of Moshiach. The process has passed advanced testing in several countries and is well on the way to commercial production over the next few years. The new reactors will use thorium instead of uranium and will not produce plutonium at all. Third world countries will be able to have their own relatively inexpensive source of electrical power and conventional nuclear facilities will be decommissioned or converted.

4Science News 5 reports a newly transformed military technology for reversing the greenhouse effect by reforesting denuded slopes, barren deserts, war-ravaged sites and other areas inaccessible to foresters. The new technique centers on "tree bombs." Ridged cones, filled with soil and saplings, are dropped from retired mili­tary aircraft. Moshe Alamaro of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was developing this project.

6Another swords to plowshares development involves using technology employed by bomber pilots to help nearly blind people see. Pilots wear head-mounted units, which display a virtual image of their target. By merely focusing their eyes on the target image and by then pressing a button, a missile would be shot at the target on the ground below.

The Plowshare spin-off of this technology is a device called low vision enhancement system, developed by Professor Robert Massof at the Johns Hopkins university school of medicine in collaboration with the US department of veteran affairs. These wrap-around goggles use an array of mirrors and lenses to see images on minia­ture cathode ray tube displays. Mini-TV cameras mounted on the front of the goggles then convey the images. The images are fully adjustable and bring sight to patients with vision as poor as 20/800.

7A further example of medical technology for human benefit is the use of cruise missile "brains" to cure diseased human brains. The software, which was developed to guide Cruise missiles towards moving targets in the Persian Gulf War, is now being used to guide x-ray beams to destroy tumors in highly sensitive areas of the body such as the brain and spinal cord.

8It is important to realize that not only the US has been involved in these efforts. Within days of the end of the Cold War, Russia had set up an International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. 9 Within two years it too had a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, invested by Russia, the US, Japan, and some European countries.

Their primary goal was to reemploy some 60,000 Russian mili­tary scientists to keep them off the payroll of would-be warrior nations. Many of the physicists are now working on safer and more efficient reactors and the handling of nuclear wastes. Many of the chemists and biologists are now working in the pollution treatment field. Former experts in biological warfare are now working in Novosibirsk, for example, controlling viral diseases and manufac­turing pharmaceuticals.

"And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation and they shall study war no more." It's happening now!

FOOTNOTES 1. Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3

2. cited by Shimon Silman in Beis Moshiach Magazine, Menacbem Av, 5756 (July 19, 1996), p.86-88.

3. Proc Symp. RYAL Inst. On Mosbiacb and Science, 14 Iyar 5758 (May 10, 1998)

4. Shimon Silman. A Nuclear Reactor for the Era of Moshiach. In Beis Moshiach Magazine, Iyar 5757. pp.34-37

5. January 11, 1997, vol. 151, No.2, p.28-29

6. cited in Shimon Silman's article, Swords Into Plowshares, 1 Adar I, 5757, pp. 30-32

7. ibid. p.31

8. ibid. p.31-2, citing Science News, vol. 148, no. 9. Aug.26/95

9. reported by Shimon Silman at the 5758-1998 RYAL Institute Conference NY.

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