National Geographic is treating us with still another series on UFOs entitled “Chasing UFOs” but I’ve thought for a long time that perhaps the most interesting series to be made on this topic would be to revisit the incredible half year in 1996 in Israel. It certainly would play well here. Never in any country have the news media been dominated day after day by saucer stories. There were dozens.

There haven’t been much in the way of sensational UFO reports reaching the general public since the end of that period in early 1997 except for the ball of light that dropped down directly over the Dome of the Rock after midnight on Jan. 28, 2011 and remained there for 23 seconds before it sped upwards following a flash. I’ll get back to that.

What didn’t happen in 1996? You had a massive traffic jam in Tel Aviv at 2 o’clock in the morning as drivers simply stopped to watch a UFO down the street flashing a kaleidoscope of colors at them. A guy went out to check his mail in Nazareth Elit and ended up going to the police station with yellow powder on his face and incision marks in his arm and behind his ear saying he had been abducted by aliens. A farm woman went out to see what those lights were approaching her home, was confronted by a miniature creature and stabbed him bringing forth a spray of green blood as he died. Fifty scientists at the Technion in Haifa examined the remains and couldn’t really answer the question that begins every game of “Twenty Questions.” — is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? There was apparently a video of two saucers colliding and also a report of an Air Force interceptor giving chase to a saucer, never confirmed. In the Knesset an MK demanded that Science Minister Benny Begin tell the people what the government knows about UFOs. Begin brought out his top scientist who responded at length but the answer could be summed up in one word, “nothing.”

Where UFOs are concerned every huckster, hustler, and hoaxer sooner or later gets into the act. A self-styled psychic proclaimed aliens would land at midnight Jan. 5, 1997. Dudu Topaz, Israel’s most popular showman at the time, decided to broadcast the event live with a two-hour extravaganza culminating in the historic event. Half the households in Israel turned in giving him what still stands as the third highest TV rating after the movie Schindler’s List and a World Cup soccer final. But the joke was on the viewers.

The abductee was Yuri Isakov, a retired cook, then 62. I’ve got the original four-minute interview here he did with newsman Rafi Reshef right after the event. Wall-to-wall specific details delivered in a spontaneous credible manner. He went out to check his mail a few metres from his home. He saw a light over his head and then was grabbed by the hair, neck, and left arm and dragged into a saucer. He was examined by creatures who spoke a language that sounded like the scratching of phonograph needles. He remembers being there for 20 minutes but he found himself lying in a soccer field three hours after leaving his house, He went straight to the police station. When he got to face Reshef, he had already told his story to the police (or partly because he passed out in the telling), a doctor, and a psychiatrist. It would take an experienced scriptwriter working with an experienced actor to produce a performance like that and what would be the point of wasting it first on the police? He suffered chronic skin problems after that. A few years later he was being denounced as a hoaxer because he claimed that they came back. This time it sounded very much like he made it up.

Ziona Dumtee of the moshav Akhihud killed the creature. A year later reports circulated that tests had proved it to be a lizard. But the official findings from the forensic medicine branch of the health department also here simply states that it was not possible to determine if the material was organic or inorganic or synthetic. In the wake of the publicity from the moshav a Kfar Saba city councillor Shmuel Hakhum went to a newspaper to tell of his encounter with one of those creatures that happened some time before the Dumtee incident.

He had a doctor’s appointment at the health clinic, had arrived too early so he decided as part of his civic duty he would go to a nearby public park and inspect the level of cleanliness. He had nearly finished when he came up to a pile of boxes and in them was what he thought to be a plastic toy 18 cm high which was exuding a greenish glow. He bent over to pick up a stick to nudge it but before he straightened up the “toy” had moved backwards. He began to study it. Said Hakhum, “He had the complete face of a human: eyes, eyelashes, nose, mouth, forehead. … On his forehead were wrinkles, like a man. He appeared like an old Negro. I looked at him long and hard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He looked straight back, as if he were examining me. It was a human look. That was my feeling; that I was looking at another human.” Hakhum stopped a woman passing by and asked her what she thought; she took one glance and ran away. He finally decided to bring someone from the health clinic, a nurse came with him, but the creature was gone when he got back.

About nine months later a man who remained anonymous arrived at the veterinary branch of the agriculture department. He said he found a corpse of one of those creatures who had been in the news, but it had disintegrated badly. They tested it and found that the material can be said to be “reminiscent of vegetable cells.”

The first sighting that year that reached the general public happened at Kibbutz Hatzor. A gigantic UFO appeared above the kibbutz three nights in a row seen by all. The design of the ship was so bizarre that any self-respecting sci-fi series would have rejected it as being impossibly implausible. All this was happening before the Internet had become established so you got your information in bits and pieces without any continuity. There was no way of following some of the more outlandish claims. For instance it was said that 15 sheep vanished without a trace at the Moshav Akhihud a while after the Dumtee incident. Sheep stealing is not unusual; “without a trace” is. If this were payback for a fallen comrade, you would have to describe it as a measured response. Next Arabs, including a doctor, began coming forward with reports of encounters with “demons.” They were reacting to events by viewing them through the prism of their traditional culture.

Then there was a rather mysterious woman named Marinka Petrova. She was a healer, originally from Bulgaria, and a semi-public figure who advertised her services frequently in newspapers and on billboards. Following the Topaz fiasco, she was interviewed in Signon, the word means “Style,” a supplement aimed at women in the daily Maariv The interview appeared in the Jan. 15, 1997 edition. She was asked, “Were you surprised that the aliens did not show up?” She replied, “No because if they were coming they would have told me.”

Before Marinka came to Israel in 1995 she had told the physiotherapists who brought her here that wherever she goes there is sure to be a great increase in UFO activity. So she was the only one in the country who was not surprised by the huge wave of sightings and encounters in the second half of 1996.

The headline in Signon was: “Don’t panic. I brought with me my alien friends to help you.”

In her interview Marinka said that when she was 37 she suffered from cancer and the doctors had written her off. One night she went to a séance, her first, and the other participants told her the messages referred to her. She was told “they” would cure her. She followed “their” instructions, and after much suffering, was cured and subsequently became a healer herself. She related who “they” were. Aliens from Sirius.

In 1976 Robert K. G. Temple wrote a book entitled “The Sirius Mystery.” In it he claimed that the Dogon tribe of Mali were descendants of the original Egyptians. They seemed to possess knowledge of the Sirius star system before astronomers did. Temple spun out a theory that the Sirius aliens were in Egypt and helped seed civilization.

We’d have to know if Temple’s book was available behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria to determine whether Marinka cribbed her following statement from there. She told her interviewer about the aliens from Sirius: “They lived once on earth and helped develop civilization.” That’s chapter and verse from Temple’s book. Did Marinka independently confirm the Dogon tradition? This remains an open question.

In 2000 I opened an Internet site and thought Marinka would make a good interview. I then learned that she had left the country. I checked Hebrew-language forums but only found a few of her former patients wondering where she had gone. I contacted UFO activists in Bulgaria but she wasn’t there. In order for Marinka to get patients she has to advertise. I figured it would only be a matter of time before her footprint appeared on the Internet. It never did.

Back to 1996. I think there is enough material there to warrant a UFO series. Thoroughly researched I believe that they could produce programs that would rival the ratings of Topaz’s fiasco week in and week out.

The Temple Mount incident remains in a class by itself and would have to be included in any series. A light appeared moving in the sky towards the Mount shortly before 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 28, 2011, and then suddenly dropped down right over the Dome of the Rock, hovered there for 23 seconds, there was a flash, and it streaked upward and away in the blink of a eye.

Four videos quickly were posted on YouTube and went viral. The incident got reported extensively on the likes of Fox News and CNN and in newspapers around the world. Just as quickly the whole episode was denounced hither and yon as a hoax.

Here’s what we know. Two videos, one from a camera and one from a cell phone, were made by two Tel Aviv men who had gone to a lookout over Jerusalem to film the city at night. One video came from American tourists and one from a group of local teenagers out tooling around.

Eligael Gedalyovich and his friend, still known only as shshsh331, were on the lookout. Gedalyovich was filming with a camera; the other guy was standing in front of him with a cell phone. Gedalyovich saw the light first, moving in the sky. He said in Hebrew, “What is that?” Pause. “This is a no-fly zone.” Pause. “It must be a police helicopter.” Not the most appropriate dialogue for a hoax video. The second man is in the picture filming on his cell phone the whole time.

American tourists produced the third video. They had their camera already fixed on the Dome of the Rock when the light appeared. A man asked, “Is that a UFO?” A woman replied, “We’ve had them in Mississippi but never like this.”

The fourth video is five minutes long but only the last minute pertains to the UFO. There are four teenagers in a car. A boy is driving, a girl is sitting beside him in the front seat. Behind her is another boy and behind the driver is another girl whom we don’t see because she is filming on her cell phone. The first three minutes are taken up by the pleas of the boy in the back seat to stop the car because he has to pee. The others are giving him a hard time but the driver is looking for an appropriate spot to pull over. They finally stop at a promontory. The guy in distress runs out. The others stay in the car for another minute. Then they get out and see the light over the Temple Mount right in front of them. One boy asks, “Do you see it?” A girl replies, “We all see it.”

The fifth video is a still shot from a weather cam that clicks on every 10 minutes. It shows the light in place at 12:57 a.m.

After that a sixth video came up on the web but everyone agreed this one was a fake and it doesn’t count.

All of the debunkers as far as I could see based their rejection of the authenticity of the four animated videos on suspicions raised on technical grounds beyond my pay grade. I bet that teenage girl didn’t realize that she inherited in her genes such technical knowledge that enables her to instantly and unconsciously doctor a cell phone video. Give her a scholarship immediately to the Technion so she can learn what they are talking about. One debunker went to great lengths to expose the bogus sixth video as bogus and then essentially said, ergo, the rest of them are bogus too. You can never convince people who have made up their minds in advance; a description that fits most of the debunkers. But you can easily go old school on this. Rule out the videos entirely.

I don’t know how many tourists there were; there may have been a busload. But let’s fix their number at four. That means you have 10 eyewitnesses in three discrete groups at three non-contiguous locations who all saw the same phenomenon at the same time happening at the same place. The debunkers could cross-examine them until the cows came home and would get nowhere, Of course what is good enough in court is not always good enough in the court of public opinion but 10 eyewitnesses does it for me.

The question was asked, how come hundreds of people in Jerusalem didn’t see this? Do this experiment. Sit on a bench at night and watch 100 people passing by. How many are looking at the sky? In most surveys you would get none. At 1 a.m. I don’t think you have more than hundreds of people walking around Jerusalem. To notice it they had a window of opportunity of 23 seconds. Still there were those who contacted the newspapers and said they saw it. How many I don’t know.

What are the alternatives to an alien UFO? There are three as I see it.

1. It was an IDF secret aircraft. Yeah, but the IDF has no money for secret aircraft. If the IDF were involved in a stunt in a no-fly zone, there would be calls the next day in the Knesset for a court-martial of all and sundry involved in it and that would be done.

2. The light was made by a projector. A hologram perhaps. I’ll bite. Does the technology exist? How difficult would it have been? But if it were done by a projector there’s no way that someone involved could have resisted spilling the beans or at least been exposed fairly quickly. Striking while it was hot someone could have got a big payday for an interview. This was a global news story getting millions of views on YouTube. Also does the hologram include providing the perspective for three distant red lights moving clockwise, possibly representing three ships supervising the action?

3. The hard-core skeptics say there are no UFOS only unexplained natural phenomenon. What natural phenomenon is capable of identifying the most sensitive political flashpoint of the world and then dive-bomb at it with a vehicle or a ball of energy, take your pick, stopping just metres before crashing into it? And then after 23 seconds catapulting out of there in the blink of an eye.

Here I am going to haul out Occam’s Razor, using a definition current among the common people if not the scholars. “The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations.”

I’ll go with the simplest explanation.

What we have here, apparently for the first time in history, is an unambiguous message from aliens to earthlings. It is this. “We know everything about you. You know nothing about us.” Sun Tzu, the all-time expert on military manners, might have reacted to the message this way. “If that is your intelligence situation, you are in a heap of trouble.”

References

TEMPLE MOUNT: This is a 14-minute dissertation on the Jan. 28, 2011 sighting by Jaime Maussan, Mexico’s leading ufologist. Good introduction to the subject. (English)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0WK-jEu68E

TRAFFIC JAM: This guy’s job in the IDF was identifying flying objects. He says he could spot the rear light of a Bell206, a Cobra or a Mig27 from miles away with no night goggles. He got caught in that post-midnight traffic jam in Tel Aviv, got to see the UFO up close and personal, and it wasn’t something you’d find in the IDF database. (English) http://www.ufoworldnews.com/a-ufo-i-saw-together-with-hundreds-of-people-in-1996/

ABDUCTEE: This is the alleged abductee Yuri Isakov being interviewed by newsman Rafi Reshef a few minutes after his release from the hospital; following him, his doctor. (Hebrew)
http://www.tapuz.co.il/blog/net/ViewEntry.aspx?entryId=1919712&skip=1

BREAKING NEWS. This was the scene at the moshav when news crews came to interview Ziona Dumtee after she killed what was believed to be an extraterrestrial. (Hebrew)
http://flix.tapuz.co.il/v/watch-3656359-.html

OFFICIAL REPORTS: The findings of the forensic medicine branch of the health department and the veterinarian branch of the agriculture department on the remains of the two leprechaun type creatures can be read here. (Hebrew)
http://www.eura.org.il/modules/Presentations%20and%20Downloads/Achihud%20Alien.pdf

KOOKY SPOOKY: This is the gigantic bizarre ship that appeared at Kibbutz Hatzor. (English)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-2BwW6a-HM