THE PERSIAN GULF WAR of 1991 has a unique significance in the unfolding of the Messianic Redemption.
Throughout history, it has been common for people to be suspicious of, disbelieve, ignore or deny words of prophecy. Prophecy can be intimidating. People naturally fear the unknown and they fear for the worst. This is especially understandable in the case of a Prophecy of doom. What about a favorable Prophecy? What if it originates from someone with a flawless publicly demonstrated and divinely confirmed track record? And what if we are to participate in its fruition? Do we not stand to gain more by taking a look at it than ignoring it? Let us examine one such case.
Yalkut Shimoni is the name of a Jewish Sacred Work written under the prophetic experience. It is a work which comments on the Jewish Bible. It was written centuries ago by a broadly accepted and renowned Torah Sage. In this work the following information was conveyed as an explanation of a passage from the Book of Isaiah, the Jewish Biblical Prophet. Paraphrased in part it states thus:
In the year that Moshiach will reveal himself, the Kings of the nations will contend one with the next; The King of Persia will war with the King of Arabia...
Regarding this conflict, the Yalkut Shimoni Prophecy conveys numerous facts, including:
1) A war that troubles international leaders will occur
2) This war involves the ruler of Persia challenging the ruler of Arabia, with the latter appealing to a superpower for help.
3) The nations and especially the Israelis will be afraid and uncertain as to what to do and where to go.
4) The year in which this war occurs will be the same year that Moshiach will reveal himself
5) During this war, G‑d will announce to the Jewish people that they have nothing to fear and that it will turn out to their favor.
6) During this war, Moshiach will announce to the Jewish people that the time of the Redemption has arrived.
These prophecies have all materialized in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Compare with 1-6 above.
(1) Dozens of nations were directly involved.
(2) Iraq is at the heart of ancient Persia. The invasion of Kuwait posed a direct threat to the whole region, and Saddam went on to threaten Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia appealed to the world's superpower, the USA for help.
(3) The UN Security Council recognized the risks but could not agree on a course of action. There was also fear and confusion among Israelis regarding how they should respond. For instance, in the event of an attack should they keep low in underground bomb shelters or as high as possible in sealed rooms to be best protected in the event of a chemical attack?
(4) (5), and (6) The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated unequivocally that the Persian Gulf War of 1991 is the war prophesized in the Yalkut Shimoni. He announced that this was the year of Moshiach's revelation. He made the announcement attributed to G‑d in the Yalkut Shimoni prophecy. He also made the announcement attributed to Moshiach in the Yalkut Shimoni prophecy.
Knowing that some people may be incredulous at his announcements, he carefully framed them in a lengthy discourse outlining how the Jewish Legal definition of prophecy is a practical law for today and that Moshiach attains this level of prophecy even before the final redemption.
Thus, The Yalkut Shimoni Prophecy, fulfilled by the Persian Gulf War, and confirmed by the Rebbe, is a message from G‑d. It's just that simple. What is the message? That Moshiach and Redemption are here and now.
"We must publicize to all people of the generation that we have merited that G‑d has chosen and appointed a human being, one who possesses free choice, to fill the role of judge and advisor and the prophet of the generation to issue directives and give advice ...
"Including the most essential prophecy, 1 "To redemption immediately" and in immediate actuality "Behold this Moshiach coming."
The Rebbe's Talk of Shabbos Shoftim, 5751-1991 Ch.ll
A story tells it best. The preceding paragraphs provided a Torah perspective, but did not convey the highly charged events of the Gulf War as they unfolded. Following is an outline of the events of the Gulf War including the ongoing commentary of the Rebbe and the experiences of the Jews in Israel.
On the morning of August 2, 1991, without warning or provocation, the army of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded its oil-rich neighbor, the Emirate of Kuwait. In a matter of hours, Radio Baghdad reported control of the entire country.
Instantly, the world was simmering. The UN Security Council agreed that the situation needed quick attention since Saddam showed no signs of restraint, and the threat of a major regional or even global conflict loomed large. Stock markets plunged and oil prices soared. Saddam threatened Saudi Arabia and announced his intention to carry his campaign all the way to the Land of Israel. Israelis began to fear for their lives.
Meanwhile frantic negotiations were taking place between the United States and the NATO countries. President George Bush warned Saddam that the invasion of Kuwait constituted a flagrant violation of international law, which the world powers would not accept. "If the Iraqi army does not retreat, there will be no choice we will have to weigh the military option." Over the following days, country after country announced their agreement to send forces to join an international force. War seemed inevitable.
That very week, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was repeating his reassurances that the Yalkut Prophecy is being fulfilled, that all the commotion is just a sign of Moshiach and Redemption, and that there was actually nothing to fear. Chassidim the world over jumped for joy at the news. Chabad emissaries conveyed the Rebbe's call for calm faith in the protection of G‑d. They reminded Jews about the Rebbe's prophecies regarding the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973. The Rebbe was saying explicitly that there would be no chemical attack.
In Israel however, fears were mounting. The media continued to sow anxiety with speculation about impending disaster. Israelis were putting all their money into food as shelves emptied throughout the country. Rabbi Yosef Ralbag, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem conveyed to the Rebbe the concerns of thousands of religious Jews regarding the hoarding of food, etc. The Rebbe's response was to believe in G‑d's watchful protection and to avoid hoarding food because "it is an outrageous practice, as it leads to unwarranted price hikes in the Holy Land."
At this time, the Israeli Police Minister, Ronnie Milo, visited the Rebbe for a dollar and a blessing, and when he commented on how serious the situation in Israel was, the Rebbe shrugged it off saying the opposite was true. As the Rebbe's words to Milo were being broadcast in Israel, the Rebbe's secretary, Rabbi Laibel Groner was also being interviewed. He conveyed again the Rebbe's message that there is nothing to fear, no need for gas masks and that the redemption is coming "quicker than anyone realizes."
As the weeks wore on and international tension mounted, the Rebbe's assurances only strengthened. "There is nothing to fear. Israel is the safest place in the world," the Rebbe repeated this to all comers, whether it was an American Jew with a child studying in Israel, or an Israeli wondering whether to leave, or a celebrant wondering whether to cancel their plans to hold a wedding or bar mitzvah in Israel.
But the Israeli Army was operating on the basis of Military Intelligence, not rabbinic assurances. Letters were sent to every resident advising them where and when to pick up their gas masks. Civil Defense workers taught children how to put on the thick black rubber masks. Instructions were given as to how to seal a room. The mask kit even included a dose of atropine in the event of exposure to mustard gas.
By this time, the mounting Allied forces were even being joined by Arab nations like Syria and Egypt who also committed troops to the cause. Finally the UN Security Council concluded that force must be used. President Bush announced, "We will protect world peace even at the price of war." Saddam heedlessly continued to raze Kuwaiti cities and villages with relentless force and cruelty.
Bush was pressuring the Security Council to issue an ultimatum: Withdraw or else. The US armed forces were sent en masse with the latest in weaponry to stations in the Arabian Desert. Israel went on high alert. Military Intelligence revealed an Iraqi SCUD arsenal trained on Israel. In light of Israeli insistence on gas masks, the Rebbe allowed his followers to obtain them so as not to create a scene.
Bush: If you do not leave Kuwait by January 15th, the forces of peace, the international coalition forces, will attack with all their might.
Saddam: I shall not retreat from Kuwait.
The Rebbe: There is nothing at all to get excited about.
A Jewish US Army Chaplain passed before the Rebbe on his way to his assignment in the Middle East and told the Rebbe that he was taking a Torah scroll and a Megilla, a scroll version of the Book of Esther, traditionally read on the Jewish Holiday of Purim, which typically comes out in March. The Rebbe told him, on videotape, that he need not bring a Megilla since if anything does happen, it would be over by Purim (which it was).
As the ultimatum deadline approached, Ben Gurion Airport in Israel was constantly crammed with hundreds jostling for scarce tickets out of the country. Yet in the midst of all this, hundreds of faithful Jews, mainly Chassidim and students, flew to Israel to demonstrate in front of the entire world, their faith in the Rebbe's promises of safety. These visitors were celebrities of hope for the anxious Israeli public. Nonetheless, January 15th, 1991 was the ultimate in anxiety for millions of Israelis, as well as half a million allied troops poised for war in the region.
The next day, the first sketchy reports of an American attack deep into the heart of Baghdad finally arrived: "The BBC has just reported that an attack has taken place ..." The next morning details raised everyone's spirits. The attack had begun close to midnight. Waves of US F-15 Stealth Fighters dropped payload after payload directly on targets deep within Baghdad. Ships at sea fired more direct hits. "The American planes are right on target. All planes have returned safely," reported CNN live from a Baghdad rooftop.
General Schwartzkopf was pleased at the good start but warned, "We do not know why the Iraqis are not responding. We must be careful."
Right he was. The following night around 2 am, sirens pierced the air, and a barrage of deadly SCUD missiles landed in heavily populated areas, particularly in Tel Aviv. In the morning, it was found that despite immense damage no one was harmed, no one was killed and no chemicals were released.
Tel Aviv had been bombed before, by the Axis forces during World War 2 and by Egypt during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Conventional aerial bombs had killed 180 and left 440 injured in Tel Aviv alone. Spawned by the arms race, Saddam's suped-up Russian SCUDs are among the world's deadliest missiles with 500-lb payloads. The shock wave alone could knock down buildings and kill hundreds trapped inside. Israeli authorities prepared hospitals for up to 6000 casualties from each attack, based on statistics from SCUD attacks on Teheran during the Iran-Iraq War.
Day after day, the allies pounded Iraqi positions, but night after night, Iraq launched SCUD attacks into the heart of Israe1. For six long weeks, SCUD missiles were fired into the heart of Israel and for six long weeks, miracle after miracle rendered each bomb ineffective. The Israeli armed forces never raised arms as requested by the Allies who intercepted many of the missiles headed for Israeli targets.
One SCUD scored a direct hit on the main gas pipe of Gush Dan near Tel Aviv, but instead of burning the area down, nothing happened because the previous day, the pipe had been shut off for servicing. On another occasion, a skyscraper was split in two from a SCUD shock wave, but no one was hurt because everyone had gone home. Large buildings under construction collapsed but they were empty. One residential apartment building was smashed to the ground with many inside. Miraculously, everyone walked away. Here is an eyewitness account from an Israeli news magazine.
We were staying in a neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv during the first missile attack, visiting with other Russian immigrants who were living in the area. Many of the people in the poorer houses of the neighborhood had not bothered to prepare a sealed room, so when the siren went off, we all rushed to the nearby public bomb shelter. The shelter was huge and it was located inside a large public building made of concrete and metal.
About 200 people gathered together to seek shelter inside the formidable building. A number of us moved to the wall on the eastern side of the shelter. If required, that side of the shelter served as a synagogue and the wall was filled with prayer books, Bibles, and other Torah books. People were reciting Psalms over the crying of the babies. Then the explosion came. Everything came crashing down around us. The shelter had taken a direct hit by a missile carrying 550 pounds of explosives. There was a smell of burning sulfur, and a thick cloud of dust filled the room.
Some of the people were thrown into the air. Others had thrown themselves to the ground and were screaming wildly. When the noise stopped and the dust began to clear, the people who had been frozen in shock began to get up and look around. Everyone was totally astonished to see that not one of the 200 people was injured! The building had totally collapsed including three walls of the shelter. Only the eastern wall, facing jerusalem, remained standing. The books and the bookshelves were untouched.
The next morning, the Prime Minister visited the area with the Mayor of Tel Aviv. Shamir asked in astonishment if there really were people in the shelter at the time of the attack. Mayor Lahat answered that indeed, there were 200, and all were saved by a miracle.
Another SCUD fell in the heart of Tel Aviv, in a densely populated area. The missile scored a direct hit on a community building and could have destroyed the neighborhood, except the missile did not even explode! It was removed intact from the building, an everlasting symbol of the countless miracles that turned so many secular Israelis into outright believers.
Dozens of absolutely astounding first hand reports have been gleaned from many mainstream media sources as well as from the survivors themselves, and cited, for example, in Sam Veffer's 1993 volume, Missiles, Masks and Miracles. For any of the countless hundreds of people involved, there' was only one explanation: Divine Intervention.
As the Rebbe had predicted, the war was over by Purim (on the eve of Purim to be precise) with Saddam in surrender. The number of SCUD missiles fired at Israel ... 39. The number containing chemical warheads ... zero.
According to the Israeli Government Press Office, 4095 buildings were damaged, including apartments, houses, institutions, schools, and businesses. There were 230 injuries, only one of them serious - by all accounts, a miracle. Twelve died indirectly, from improper use of gas masks and from heart attacks due to fear. As a direct result of 39 missile attacks over some six weeks was only one death.
One death is a disaster for sure, but compare. The Iraqis fired one SCUD into Saudi Arabia and killed hundreds. Scuds have been used in Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and numerous other countries. Each missile kills tens to hundreds on average, and here while 39 of them fell, only one person was killed. Besides this, Israel was indeed the safest place in the world, exactly as the Rebbe had prophesized. Indeed the Israeli death rate in general was exceptionally low during the Gulf War, largely because traffic was so light and there were very few accidents.
As for Saddam, he was soundly defeated and shamed before the entire world.
This too has been prophesized. The Zohar, the fundamental Kabbalistic text, states that right before the coming of Moshiach, Nevuchadnetzar would be born again. Nevuchadnetzar was the Babylonian Dictator who overpowered Israel and destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem. Saddam has often compared himself to this nefarious figure and has even called himself "Nevuchadnetzar the Second."
The Zohar states that after being reborn, Nevuchadnetzar would again try to destroy the Jewish people but this time he would be totally unsuccessful and shamed before the nations. Nearly forty nations ganged up against him, including former allies, and after surrendering he had to pay restitution to Kuwait and agree to UN monitoring, to make sure he doesn't develop nuclear bombs or assemble chemical weapons.
Moreover the UN's role in today's geopolitical climate is yet another sign of the redemption.
1. The Rebbe's own footnote at this point in his published discourse states "not only as a sage and a judge, but as a prophet which means that it is certain."