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Israel: land of milk, honey, and UFOs

It was the winter of 1991 when a raging a storm dumped an uprecedented 18 inches of snow on Jerusalem, felling more than a thousand trees and paralyzing the City of Peace. But how could the heavenly onslaught be explained? Proponents of apocalypse said the storm augured the end of the world. Meteorologists pointed to unusual disturbances in the sun. And a few audacious spirits even suggested the tumultuous weather had somehow been caused by UFOs.

The saucer buffs were swiftly pilloried by the pragmatic Israel press. But the extraterrestrial visitation theory was forgotten only for awhile. On midnight of Friday, January 24, 1992, witnesses reported a mysterious, sphere-shaped object trailing a fiery tail in Safed, north of the Sea of Galilee, over Nazareth, and finally, as far south as the Red Sea and Eilat. When a local radio show carried a story on the sightings the next day, listeners called in with more reports still. Witnesses throughout the nation described a "ball of fire and a tail of glittering light about two kilometers above ground." Estimates of the object's length varied from 40 to 200 meters, including the fiery tail.

One of the first to investigate was UFOlogist Hadassah Arbel of Haifa, who received numerous reports of the mysterious object. It definitely did not fit "orthodox characterizations" of the UFO, said Arbel since so-called "flying saucers are usually endowed with a solid, clearly defined, easily recognizable geometry. They are either cigar or saucer shaped, elliptical, or simply circular. In this case, witnesses described what they saw with words like "glittery" and "celestial."


This latest spate of sightings, Abel adds are just part of the phenomenon she has been investigating since 1987, when one young man from Haifa reported a glowing, boomerang-shaped object zooming across the night sky. Since then, Arbel has looked into well over 200 UFO reports from Haifa alone. According to Arbel, who by day directs the Volunteer Unit of Haifa's Social Welfare Department, the saucer sightings may have a spiritual spin. Many of the Haifa sightings, she notes, occurred on significant Jewish holidays such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Shavuoth. "It is possible," she suggests, "that the UFOs are meant as some sort of sign."

Oded Regev, astrophysicist at Israel's prestigious Technion University, agrees that the sightings are a sign - that some of nature's subtle mysteries must still be solved. "The sightings can have a large number of mundane explanations," he opines. As for the latest UFO over the Holy Land, he suggest it could have been caused by "a chunk of satellite falling earth-ward and burning up in the atmosphere a meteorite, or a low-flying high-performance military craft.

"Ninety percent of UFO sightings," Regev adds, "can be dismissed as natural atmospheric phenomena, optical illusions, reflections from celestial bodies, or even birds." Hadassah Arbel, meanwhile, finds vindication in the fact that even Regev admits some "ten percent of the UFOs sighted over Israel and elsewhere are unexplained."

COPYRIGHT 1992 Omni Publications International Ltd.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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