6th November 1998
Did Elijah see the first UFO?
“Then fire from the Lord descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones and the earth; and it licked up the water that was in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38)
And Elijah wins his bet with the Canaanites. His deity can hurl a bolt of pure energy from the heavens – theirs can’t. South of Haifa in Israel there is a cave where Elijah sheltered from his enemies, and inside the cave is an ancient drawing. Two-and-a-half thousand years ago someone – perhaps the prophet himself – felt compelled to paint a distorted disc on the wall.
It would be laughable to label this the first known depiction of a UFO. Except – on September 28, 1987, a disc-shaped craft burned its own image into the sands at Shikmona Beach, 200 yards below Elijah’s Cave.
The phenomenon was reported by Ami Achrai, a 27-year-old motor mechanic who stopped his car to watch what he thought at first was a helicopter in distress, at the edge of the Mediterranean. As his eyes made out the classic UFO shape, a bolt of brilliant red energy dazzled him. When his vision cleared, the ship was gone.
Haifa police reacted with all the amiable incredulity of police the world over who are asked to give chase to spacecraft. Aliens very rarely commit crimes, they pointed out, and they never leave fingerprints, so detectives didn’t usually bother arresting them. If an alien were to walk into the station, of course, and confess to a few unsolved abductions – well, they might have to do something about it. But hovering over Shikmona Beach wasn’t a criminal matter.
Achrai was clearly a level-headed and honest young man, and the police offered him a name: Hadassah Arbel, a UFOlogist. Together Arbel and Achrai went to Shikmona Beach on September 30. What they found remains one of the most dramatic and durable evidences of an alien sighting.
An elliptical disc 15 metres across had been scorched into the sand. Its form matched what Achrai had seen. Even more incredibly, parts had not been burned. And the area left untouched looked eerily like a humanoid figure seated at a control desk – the pilot.
I learned this story from journalist Barry Chamish, whose revelations about the murder of Yitzhak Rabin shocked readers last month. Barry’s book Return Of The Giants, as yet unpublished, details the explosion in Israeli UFO encounters since 1987. The phenomenon has intensified, from reports of spaceships to descriptions of alien figures on the ground and even rumours of attacks of children and animals. These stories are gaining ground fastest in Arab-speaking areas, and being mixed with Muslim traditions of demons and dog-headed monsters.
Ancient folklore and unexplained science are a terrifying combination, and hysteria reached a tragic pitch on July 27, 1997, when Said Karumi, a Beduin from Ofakim in the Negev Desert, told police officers, “Aliens are after me,” before dousing himself and his baby son with petrol and setting light to himself. The child died – the man did not.
Chamish is fighting to put the UFO investigations on a serious footing, if only to place the sensational reports into some kind of rational, scientific context. He has painstakingly probed 34 incidents, some of them outlandish or gruesome, some of them attested by reliable witnesses. In a significant number of cases, material traces have remained backed up the stories. “What characterises the current Israeli UFO wave from others in the world,” Chamish said, “is the sheer abundance of physical evidence left behind by the visitors.”
Sand from Shikmona was sent to the TV show Sightings, which ran lab tests. The sand appeared to melt under the camera lights. Subsequent tests showed the granules had been coated with an unknown hydrocarbon that dissolved at low temperatures – suggesting the pictogram had been deliberately created and was not, for example, an accidental side effect of engine heat. The scientists could not supply any natural explanation for the phenomenon.
After two teenagers reported a spaceship explosion over Shikmona, UFOlogists collected burning metal, later proved to be magnesium, from the sands. The white metal even glowed under water – but it was cool to handle and dissolved to ash at a touch. Investigators from the Technion Institute of Technology discovered magnetic levels were running 6000 times higher on the beach than in the surrounding zone.
Fragments of silicon, which looked organic but stretched like rubber, were found in Tel Yitzhak, a suburb of Kadima, after a UFO landing was reported. A reddish, iron-based oil was also collected and tested by Dr W Levengood. Earlier this year, similar crimson oil was retrieved by UFOlogist Gil Bar and tested by Dr Levengood’s co-worker, Nancy Talbott. She reported the oil’s internal structure, of large, molecules like doughnuts, was identical to patterns seen in other materials tested after alien abduction reports. This may be the first time crop circles have been positively linked to abductions.
Two-and-a-half thousand years ago, as Elijah sheltered in his cave, the Lord passed by. “There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind – an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake – fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire – a soft, murmuring sound.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
All this over Shikmona Beach.
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