Noah — Open the Ark Door

It took Noah 40 days and 40 nights to survive the great deluge. In the earlier original tale, the Babylonian legend of Gilgamesh which precedes the biblical flood account by centuries, Gilgamesh reveals to Utnapishtim the secret plan of the god Ea to destroy the world by a great flood.

The flood lasted for seven days and seven nights. Gilgamesh, like later Noah, sent out a raven to determine the level of the flood but the raven found no place to rest. In a second attempt, again like the one copied in the Noah tale, a dove was sent out and did not return.

Gilgamesh then opened the door of his ark and set the livestock free. He then made a burnt offering to please the god Ea.

If it sounds familiar, it should. It is part of pan-semitic literature, borrowed and copied by subsequent cultures and civilizations which centuries later found its way into the Hebrew legends of the bible.

The recent drastic flooding in our country took fifty years to wreak such devastation.

Whole cities were affected under the rapidly flowing muddy waters. Homes, buildings, institutions, hospitals, schools, cultural and religious facilities were all swept away in the mouth of the raging angry waters.

Families with infants and small children, unable to escape from their cars, were drowned in the flood.

Heroic individuals who attempted to save them and to free them from impending death were themselves drowned. Heroes who met death as heroes.

Familiar to me was the lovely northern resort city of Nahariya, a “yekke” city established by German-speaking Jews who settled in pre-state Palestine in 1935.
It is the most northern coastal city in Israel with a population of some 57,000 residents.

I remember the city fondly. How many times in the 1950’s I enjoyed my kaffee mit schlagsahne (steaming black coffee with whipped cream) to quench my mouth from the delicious apfel strudel which I enjoyed at Café Penguin or at Tutti Loewey’s !

It was my respite from the toil in the tobacco fields of it’s not too distant neighbor, Kibbutz Matzuva on the Lebanese frontier.

It had a charming canal, the Ga’aton, in the center of its main street by that name. Not a canal as in Venice but closer to one in the Dutch city of Amsterdam.
Although, I never saw a boat floating in the Nahariya canal.

Here, following the establishment of our independence in 1948, German was the preferred spoken language. Hier schpricht man nur deutsch. I don’t know when the city became a Hebrew-speaking one. Occasionally, elderly well-dressed citizens can be overheard with a “danke schon” or an “aufwiedersehen”.

German culture and German hospitality singled Nahariya out from all the other cities of Israel. Perhaps nearby Shavei Tzion was another.

Its greatest attraction for tourists was its magnificent beaches. Sadly, I imagine that most of the beautiful sands were washed away, not by the waters of the Mediterranean but by the waters of the heavy flood.

Nahariya , since 1935, quickly became a popular tourist destination, renowned for its many beachfront cafes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and fine food, especially its dairy delicacies.. A tourist paradise of rest and relaxation.

Cities and smaller towns throughout Israel were severely damaged by the flood waters. There was no escape from them. Torrential rains. Blessing or punishment?

Frightened young children and their fearful parents had never experienced such a natural disaster. Schools have been closed and access to travel to hospitals is extremely difficult.

Who needs a war with terrorists in the face of God’s war with nature? For what reason, unlike the blasphemy of man in the days of Noah, are the children of today’s Israel being victimized?

First, tell the rabbis to withhold their annual prayers for geshem (rain).

And then plead with Noah or his offspring to open the door to the ark.

We are all worth saving. Well…. almost all of us.

(Bibi and the Likud are up for a questionable discussion… if there was a working Knesset to discuss it).

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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