SCIENTISTS DISCOVER POLISH NOSTRADAMUS IN SYNAGOGUE CACHE
By Philip Ochs
Lumza Industrial Region, Poland. In 2012, under the destroyed site of a medieval synagogue, Navi Yisroel, dating from the 14th Century, construction workers found what appeared to be an underground redoubt. Jeffrey Kolopensky, a Polish-American specialist in early Eastern European history with Carmody University and Sean McNeil, a Hebrew language scholar from Yale Divinity, assessed the documents and artifacts found in the buried bunker. There were two Torah scrolls, each with their embroidered coverings, crowns, and their Yad text pointers. There was a trove of genealogical information, a donation list, a list of people entitled to sit by the eastern wall of the synagogue. There was also a pile of correspondence in Polish, but written with Hebrew characters; this was common since Polish did not yet have its own written alphabet. Kolopensky remarked at the time that save for the Polish documents, if someone found a storage room from a destroyed 1950s American synagogue, the contents would likely be identical to the Navi Yisroel find.
There were two surprises: a copy of the apocryphal Book of Judit, a controversial story, denied by the rabbis as being genuine, was only the second find of this book in a Jewish context, and an exceedingly well-sealed document packet, folded in a unique and confusing way, with Kabbalistic symbols pressed into a type of wax from no known source of wax in the 15th Century. The packet was sent to Cal Tech for analysis and testing before an attempt was made to open it. A summary of the initial findings was posted on PLoS-Archaeology.
Radiocarbon dating showed the parchment and the ink to both have come from 1372, plus or minus 50 years. The Hebrew writing was more or less the same as written Hebrew found elsewhere in 14th Century Eastern Europe. The first page was a letter from the synagogue’s Rabbi at the time, Meshulem Levi. It described the project to bury the synagogue’s treasure because of a warning by HaNavi, “The Prophet,” that in a few years the Exilarchy, exiled Judaism’s diplomatic presence, would no longer be recognized by the Turks. Kolopensky notes that this did, in fact, happen. The remaining 144 pages each contained a specific prophecy, dated according to the Hebrew Calendar, with each page signed in Hebrew by Michael G’veretainu and marked at the top with the initials Bet – Hay, “Blessed is God.”
Some of the prophecies in the packet included Joan of Arc: (A girl will lead a host to fight a war and the Lord of Hosts will see her killed to end a war, 5191-1431,) The Avignon Papacy (Two princes of Rome, one will stay in Rome, one will find other Romans to the West, 5169 – 1409) and Columbus (Sailing west to find an old world in the east, a new world will be found 5252 – 1492.) The summary also indicates that some of the prophecies extend to modern times, the Mets winning the 1969 World Series (Men will strike round balls with round sticks, and the least of the ball strikers will be first 5730 – 1969) and the Moon landing (Pieces of the Moon will be given as gifts 5729 – 1969). Predictions continue past the present date but will not be published until analyzed.
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Kolopensky took the early half of the packet and McNeil the latter half up until the 17th Century. Haverford Hemmings, a Morehouse historian, and Pat Mitchell, a CUNY sociologist, were brought in to cover the modern period. Brenda Hudson of IAS Princeton and Brookings, a futurist, received dominion over the predictions yet to be. At least, that was the official division of labor. The scholars collectively recognized that opinions of the team probably mattered more than who was responsible for which part. They printed out the predictions from the thumb drive onto label-sized perforated sheets, separated them, and tossed them all into a hat. They took turns drawing out prophecies and offering and then defending, or not, their opinions. Some were simple: 1942, a Roman and a Jew will unleash the dragon dreamed of by an older Jew. Fermi, Oppenheimer, Einstein, the A-Bomb. Or this one: A mother from Shem and a father from Japheth and their son will end a great plague, 1955. Jonas Salk, polio.
Most were harder. Like Er and Onan, two are sacrificed but for good and not for the wicked, 1944. It took the not very militaristic bunch a while to figure out Joe Kennedy Jr. and Jack Kennedy. This one was almost impossible: From what God says to Job, the cold and soft and the cold and hard, 1943. Haverford, son of a Tuskegee pilot, figured it out.
“Where the Hail is Bound Up. From Job. ‘Have you seen the storehouse of the snow, have you entered where the hail is bound up?’ 1943 was the first of the Navy meteorology flights into storm clouds.” That got him a round of applause. The session was their first, the protocol was still being worked out, but they could see they were never going to find answers for all of them. Sean was kinda-sorta nominally in charge, since he decided what the Hebrew was saying.
“Look, folks. We haven’t even gotten to Michael’s surname yet. Most people back then just went by patronymics, or nobles by place names. G’veretainu. Our lady?” Naturally someone had to kibbitz; the interruption quotient seemed to want to remain high, and Brenda was the one to keep it high.
“Michael. Our Lady. Something is nagging at the back of my head.”
“Okay, Brenda, just let us know when it gets to the front of your head. This is going to take forever.” That was Jeff. “Get us some alcohol and Grad Students. Or something.”
“We’re not ready to open this up yet. We need a good answer for each of these or the whole project is just going to be conspiracy fodder. And if we don’t get it out toot sweet it’s also going to stoke the wing nuts. Everyone who draws a prophecy and offers an opinion has to be dead sure. They have to pay a forfeit if the majority of the rest of us disagree. Agreed?” Sean looked a little too comfortable playing leader. Pat tried to cut him down a notch.
“Strip prophecies. Pick your slip from the hat, take your time forming an opinion, but if you wind up out-voted after discussion, you’ve got to take something off. How’s that, buck-o?” she asked Sean.
“Any objections to the preliminary protocol suggested by our expert on the study of people? No? I’m sure this isn’t as bad as the climatology folks splicing data sets together, and I’m confident we’re all wearing clean underwear. Let’s get back to work. And no booze until we get a good rhythm going. I’ll go first.”
“1913. The sons of Esau and the sons of Jacob join to fight the Hittites. Arab-Jewish cooperation against the Turks?”
“I’ll go with that.”
“Agreed. You get to keep your pants on, Sean.”
Jeff was next. “The least of them saves the highest of them, 1972. That’s easy, John Mitchell quits Nixon’s campaign.”
“Wait a minute. Nixon was only saved temporarily. How about Spassky-Fischer Game 6 in Reykjavik? The pawn sacrifice wound up winning the whole game.” That was Brenda.
“Brenda’s right, Jeff. Take something off,” Pat ordered. Jeff glumly gave up his prized Kelly-Mouse Grateful Dead t-shirt. But now they had a rhythm, some liquor, and a platoon of grad students to do the job while the original crew “supervised.” The prophecies correctly predicted the discoveries of Uranus and Neptune, plus possibly some Kuiper Belt objects. Jeff and Brenda argued over “2019. The drinkers of tea and eaters of fish will leave the nations behind.” She lost out to China trade policy.
This one made the reader’s face go pale. “2019. The false King has taken the debased silver from the wicked. The land is ravaged, scorched, flooded. No comment needed on this one.”
“2031. The signal fire for the new moon will come concerning the moon of a different world.”
There was one more prophecy. “2020. The naked and the dead hold the fate of the world.” Everyone looked around. First at Sean’s Big Dog underpants, then Brenda’s boobs, or at least what showed of them with her arms across her chest, and finally at Jeff’s Grateful Dead t-shirt. And then one more round of looking at each other, seeing who was and who was not worthy of the task ahead.
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