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Chapter Eight - The Final Days

WHEN I flew back to Israel at the end of July 1996, the threatened "atomic holocaust" was just six weeks away.

On the flight, I read a report in the Jerusalem Post that Prime Minister Netanyahu was about to leave for a meeting with King Hussein in Amman, Jordan.

That, too, had been predicted in the Bible code. I found it a week before Netanyahu was elected, in the same place that his victory was predicted, more than two months before the just announced trip.

"July to Amman" appeared almost openly in the code, right next to "Prime Minister Netanyahu."

The newspaper report now confirmed his trip to Jordan. It was scheduled for July 25, 1996.

"Oh my God," I said to myself, "it is real."

Once more the Bible code had been proven right. Three thousand years ago it had predicted that in July 1996 Netanyahu would go to Amman. If the Bible code was right about that, if it was accurate down to the smallest details, then it was likely also right about the predicted "atomic holocaust," the "holocaust of Israel," and the "World War." The danger looked very real.

Then, at the last minute, Netanyahu's trip was suddenly delayed. The night before the Israeli leader was scheduled to leave for Amman, King Hussein fell ill. The Prime Minister did not go to Jordan until August 5th.

Was the Bible code wrong? "Prime Minister Netanyahu" did go "to Amman," as predicted 3000 years ago. But he did not go in "July," as the code stated.

I went to see Eli Rips. I asked him if the Bible code might work like quantum physics. If it did, then it could not tell us both what and when. The Uncertainty Principle said it clearly-the more precisely you measured what, the less precisely you could measure when. That was why quantum mechanics predicted not one, but many possible futures.

Rips did not invoke the Uncertainty Principle. Instead, he pointed to the word in the Bible code right above "July to Amman." It said, "Delayed."

Could the Bible code be right about an event, but wrong about the date? The question had a special urgency in the final weeks of a countdown to a possible Armageddon.

RIGHT up to September 13, 1996, the last day of 5756, the year of the predicted "atomic holocaust," I stayed in close contact with Israeli leaders. Three days before the date encoded with "holocaust of Israel," I met in New York with the Prime Minister's national security advisor, Dore Gold.

The next day, I sent a final message to Mossad chief Danny Yatom, and General Yatom sent back word that Israeli intelligence was on alert.

But nothing happened on September 13, 1996. There was no atomic attack. The Hebrew year 5756 came and went and Israel and the world were still at peace.

I was relieved, but puzzled. Was the Bible code simply wrong? Or, was the danger real, and only delayed? I thought about it all weekend, and on Monday sent Yatom a fax:

"One last word, and I'm out of the fortune-telling business.

"The atomic attack predicted for the last days of 5756 was obviously a probability that did not happen-but my guess is that the danger is not over.

"On several occasions we have seen things happen as predicted, but not when predicted. I urge you to remain alert to what is almost certainly a real danger."

I could not be sure the danger was real, but now I had proof that the future was not set in stone.

Finally, there was an answer to the question posed by the Rabin assassination, debated by Einstein and Hawking, and raised by Peres when I warned him of the threatened atomic attack-"If it's predicted, what can we do?"

The future was encoded in the Bible. Rabin's murder and the Gulf War proved that. But it was not pre-determined. It was a series of probabilities, and it could be changed.

The question spelled out by the same letters that spelled out the year 5756-"Will you change it?"-had been answered.

Did the Israelis, warned by the Bible code of an atomic attack, prevent it by being on alert at the time of the predicted danger?

Did Prime Minister Peres, by publicly stating the danger three days after I met with him, put a stop to a planned terrorist attack?

Or was it all changed only by chance, when Netanyahu at the last minute delayed a diplomatic trip to Jordan?

BY delaying his trip, the Prime Minister may have saved his life.

"Death, July to Amman" stated the full hidden text that crossed his name.

The word "delayed" appeared right above. "Delayed" appeared twice more with "Prime Minister Netanyahu," crossing the words "his soul was cut off," and crossing "murdered."

By saving his life, Netanyahu may have prevented, or delayed, a war.

"The next war" was encoded with a prediction: "it will be after the death of the Prime Minister (another will die)." In fact, the full hidden text stated "another will die, Av," naming the Hebrew month equivalent to July.

And by forestalling a war in the Middle East, the delayed trip may have prevented a global conflict.

Both the plain words of the Bible and the code predict that a "Final Battle," a "World War," will start in Israel. So, the entire world may have been spared at least for a time by the suddenly cancelled trip.

Was it really possible that one small change, a trip that took place ten days late, could make such a huge difference? If it prevented an assassination, yes.

World War I was in fact triggered by an assassination. The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand was killed in June, 1914, setting off a conflict that within weeks swept all of Europe and Russia, and finally brought in the United States.

"A wrong turn by the Archduke's driver brought the heir to the Austrianthrone face to face with [his assassin] Gavrilo Princip," noted a PBS documentary, stating the immediate cause of World War I. "In a flash, the whole continent was going to be at war."

It is not difficult to imagine that in the already tense Middle East, the assassination of a second Israeli Prime Minister in less than a year, in an Arab capital, might set off a war. And an all-out war in the Middle East could quickly become global.

Physicists would call it the "Butterfly Effect." It is fundamental to Chaos Theory.

James Gleick, in his book Chaos, cites the "Butterfly Effect"-"The notion that a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can transform storm systems next month in New York."

Had Netanyahu merely by going to Jordan ten days late, stopped the count-down to Armageddon?

IN the Bible code, just above "World War" there is a date: "9th of Av is the day of the Third."

It was the exact day of Netanyahu's scheduled trip to Jordan. July 25, 1996, was the 9th of Av, 5756, in the ancient Hebrew calendar.

It is a cursed date in Jewish history. It is the day that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. It is the day that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

All through history, there have been a series of disasters that have befallen the Jews on that date, and it is so feared by the religious that they fast on the 9th of Av, and pray for mercy.

And now the Bible code stated that on the "9th of Av" a third World War might start, with the third destruction of the Holy City, a nuclear attack on Jerusalem.

The ancient name for Jerusalem, "Ariel," the name used in the original warning of the Apocalypse, was in fact encoded between "World War" and "9th of Av is the day of the Third."

But Netanyahu did not go to Amman, as scheduled, on the 9th of Av. And "delayed" is again encoded with both the date and the Prime Minister's name.

In fact, both "Bibi" and "delayed" are encoded with "9th of Av, 5756." In the same verse, there is an interwoven hidden text that states, "Five futures, five roads."

It was a clear statement that the future had been changed. It also seemed a clear statement that there were many possible futures, and that the Bible code revealed each of them.

WHY didn't the Bible code just tell us the final outcome, the one real future? "Everything is foreseen, but freedom of action is given," states the Talmud, the ancient commentary on Biblical law.

For almost 2000 years sages have debated the apparent paradox-how can there be human free will if God knows everything in advance?

The Bible code makes that question real for the modern world. It forces us to ask the question Prime Minister Peres asked me-"If it's predicted, what can we do?"

"It's a warning, not a prediction," I told the Israeli leader. "What we do determines the outcome."

I tried to say it with total confidence, because I wanted to believe it, and I wanted him to believe it. But later, I discussed the apparent paradox with Eli Rips.

"I don't know if what is foreseen can be changed," said Rips. "I have thought about it a lot, and I once thought I knew the answer, but now I don't know."

I told Rips that it seemed to me there were two ways to read the famous lines from the Talmud. First, that we have free will, but what we choose to do is known before we do it. Second, that although the entire future is foreseen, we can change it.

"I can't accept that we can change what was foreseen," said Rips, "because all the changes we make were also known to God in advance."

"I used to think that our future was foreseen, period," Rips continued.
"But the Bible code caused me to realize that there is another alternative -all our possible futures were foreseen, and we are choosing among them."

That is why both "July to Amman" and "delayed" were encoded. That is why 1996 was encoded with "atomic holocaust," but the danger was also encoded with several other years. That is why the letters that spelled out the same year in the Hebrew calendar, 5756, also asked a question, "Will you change it?"

Why didn't the Bible code just tell the one real future? The answer appears to be that there isn't just one real future, there are many possible futures.

"DELAY" is written into the Bible and the code.

It is written in with "holocaust of Israel," just as it was written in with "Prime Minister Netanyahu."

"Holocaust of Israel" is encoded with the year 2000 as well as 1996, and the words "you delayed" are encoded in the same place. "5756" posed a question, "Will you change it?" The hidden text starting at the same letter that begins to spell out "5760" gives the answer, "You delayed."

"Delay" is written in with "year of the plague." Where "Israel and Japan" cross those words, the same code sequence states, "They delayed the year of the plague."

"Delay" is written in with "World War." Where the years 2000 and 2006 are encoded, the hidden text states, "I will delay the war."

It is even written in with the "End of Days."

Every time the "End of Days" appears in the plain text of the Bible, the word "delayed" appears in the hidden text.

In Genesis 49:1-2, where Jacob tells his sons what will befall them "in the End of Days," the "delay" is inherent in the very name of the Patriarch. In Hebrew the name "Jacob" also means "he will prevent" and "he will delay."

Has the End been "prevented" or only "delayed"?

When Moses tells the ancient Israelites what will happen in the "End of Days," the hidden text appears to say "delayed."

In Deuteronomy 31:29, Moses' warning that "evil will befall you in the End of Days" is preceded by a hidden text that states, "You knew it will be delayed."

And in Numbers 24:14, where the sorcerer Balaam foretells the "End of Days"-the words that are encoded with both "atomic holocaust" and "World War"-the hidden text states "friend delayed."

"Friend delayed" overlaps "fire shook the nation." And the hidden text in the same verse also states "I will advise you what" and "I will advise when." The "friend" is not identified. But he appears to be whoever encoded the Bible.

It is not yet clear if the End will come, when the stated delay will be over, but one thing is clear-"delay" is written into all the original prophecies of the "End of Days."

Armageddon has not been prevented, according to the code, only delayed. AND there were many indications in the Bible code that the "delay" might be very short.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu" is encoded with the current year, "5757."

And the Hebrew year that began in September 1996 and ends in October 1997 is also the year most clearly encoded with his adversary, the Palestinian leader "Arafat."

Just two weeks into the new year tensions in Israel once more exploded. On Wednesday, September 25, 1996, open warfare broke out in Israel.

For three days Palestinian police fought Israeli soldiers, who responded with helicopter gunships and sent tanks into the West Bank for the first time since the 1967 Six Day War.

The death toll was 73, and hundreds were wounded.

What was most striking was how quickly the battle began, how suddenly apparent peace in Israel became a shooting war.

I called Eli Rips in Jerusalem. "My own judgement is that the prospect of war is now a high probability," said Rips. "I'm not speaking now as a mathematician, or from the Bible code, but only as an Israeli observing the sudden outbreak of armed conflict."

The immediate cause of the violence was the opening of a tunnel under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site of both the Jews' holiest shrine, the Wailing Wall, the remains of the ancient Temple, and of Islam's third holiest shrine, the Dome of the Rock.

"Tunnel," I discovered to my surprise, appeared in the code with "holocaust of Israel."

And when I checked "atomic holocaust" I was shocked to see crossing "atomic" the name of the West Bank city where the fighting began, "Ramallah." The full hidden text stated, "Ramallah fulfilled a prophecy."

Once more the Bible code seemed to be updating itself, almost as if the encoder were also following the constant turn of events in the Middle East. One location was encoded over the other, one crisis over another, one year over another, so that finally there was no way to be certain if the real danger was in 1996, or 1997, or the year 2000, or beyond.

But the overall danger was very clearly stated, and very clearly tied to the present moment. There was no question that the code was describing the people, the places, and the events in the current Arab-Israeli conflict.

I looked again at "holocaust of Israel." The word "annexed" appeared twice in the same place, against very high odds. It was the word Israelis used to describe the two territories they captured from the Arabs in the 1967 war, the Golan Heights in the mountains facing Syria, and East Jerusalem.

Those were the two flashpoints in the modern Middle East.

"Arafat" also appeared in the hidden text of the Bible, encoded in the one place both Biblical statements of the "End of Days" come together. It could not be by chance, and it was the clearest possible statement that the current conflict in the Middle East could actually boil over into Armageddon.

"It is what is stated in the Midrash," said Rips, referring to the ancient commentary on the Bible. "It is perhaps the "exile under Ishmael' just before the `End of Days.' Some of the Midrash say that at a time of Arab domination, 80% of the Israeli population will be killed."

We were both silent for a moment. "This may be what you are finding in the code," said Rips.

I had not known of the ancient prophecy. Ishmael was the first son of the patriarch Abraham, the one he sent away. According to the Bible, he is the forebear of all Arabs. Abraham's second son, Isaac, was the chosen inheritor.
He is the forebear of all Jews. The family feud had been going on for 4000 years, and was predicted to come to a terrible end.

In January 1997 Netanyahu and Arafat did shake hands on shared control of Hebron, the city where Abraham is said to be buried, and set a timetable for a broader settlement. But the most difficult issue, the final status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and the Palestinians claim as their capital, remained unresolved. And there was no way to know if the stiff handshake at 3 AM on January 15 would lead to a real peace, or a new outbreak of violence.

In March 1997 the peace began to unravel. Arafat rejected the first step in Israel's planned withdrawal from the occupied territories. Netanyahu announced that he would build a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of East Jerusalem, seen by the Palestinians as the capital of their future homeland.

"The saddest reality that has been dawning on me," Jordan's King Hussein wrote Netanyahu as the tensions began to build, "is that I do not find you by my side in working to fulfill God's will for the final reconciliation of all the descendants of the children of Abraham."

And on March 21, violence did erupt in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Hebron.
A Palestinian suicide bomber killed three and wounded forty at a Tel Aviv cafe, the first terrorist attack since Netanyahu was elected. On the same day, riots broke out in Hebron, and in Arab East Jerusalem at the site of the Jewish housing project, Har Homa.

"Har Homa" is encoded in the most sacred text of the Bible. It appears
with no skips in the Mezuzah, the fifteen verses that were preserved in a separate scroll and posted on the door of every home in Israel.

And encoded with "Har Homa" are the ominous words, "All his people to war.

"All his people to war," the words in the Bible code originally found with the Rabin assassination, and found again with the wave of bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that shattered the peace Rabin had forged with Arafat, had once more in September 1996 and March 1997 become a reality. And those same words also appeared with the ultimate danger, "atomic holocaust."

Each spark that might set off the holocaust was foreseen, but until each crisis came to an end there was no way to know if it was just another skirmish in a 4000-year-old feud, or the beginning of Armageddon.

IT may be impossible to know both what and when.

"Physics has given up," said Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel laureate many consider the greatest scientist since Einstein. "We do not know how to predict what will happen in a given circumstance. The only thing that can be predicted is the probability of different events. We can only predict the odds."

And yet quantum physics is a highly successful branch of science. It works. Perhaps because it recognizes uncertainty as part of reality.

In the same way, the Bible code works. Again, because it recognizes uncertainty as part of reality.

"Our world is clearly reflected in it," said Rips. "It is as if we were looking into a mirror. Our efforts to see the future and to do something about it both probably play a role. I think that it is a very complicated, interactive event."

Rips said that when he was working at his computer, searching for information in the code, he sometimes felt like he was on-line with another intelligence.

"The Bible code is not really responding now," he explained, "it just foresaw everything all at once, in advance."

According to Rips, the whole Bible code had to be written at once, in a single flash. "We experience it like we experience a hologram-it looks different when we look at it from a new angle-but the image, of course, is pre-recorded."

It is the history of the human race recorded more than 3000 years ahead of time. It does not tell the, story sequentially, but all at once. Modern events overlap ancient events, the future is encoded in verses that tell of the Biblical past. One verse might contain within it the stories of then and now and a hundred years from now.

"The problem is how we decipher it all," said Rips. "It is very clearly non-random, but it is as if we had an intelligence report in which we can read only one of every twenty words."

Rips was, as always, cautious. "This is the product of a higher intelligence," he said. "It may want us to understand, but it may not want us to understand. The code may not reveal the future to us unless we are worthy."

I didn't agree. If the world was really in danger, it hardly mattered whether we were worthy. The encoder, if he was good, would surely warn us.

At the end, there was an unbridgeable gap. Rips was religious. I was not. For me there was always a question-who encoded the Bible, what was his motive, where was he now?

For Rips there was always an answer-God.

AT the end of my five-year investigation I did find final proof that the Bible code itself is real. And chilling evidence that the world may have come closer to disaster in 1996 than we will ever know.

Our narrow escape in 1996 was clearly stated in the plain text of Isaiah, the first Apocalypse, the one book of the Bible found intact among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the one that seemed to predict an atomic attack on Jerusalem.

It was not hidden in a code. It was openly stated in the plain words of the 2500-year-old scroll.

The year was revealed in a unique verse, one that told the future backwards.

The foremost translator of ancient Hebrew texts, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the man Time magazine called "a once-in-a-millennium scholar," pointed that verse out to me.

I went to see Steinsaltz when I first heard about the Bible code. The rabbi is also a scientist, and I wanted to see what he thought about a code in the Bible that predicted the future, foretold events that happened thousands of years after the Bible was written, reported in detail a future that did not yet exist.

"In the Bible time is reversed," said Steinsaltz, noting an odd quirk in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

"The future is always written in the past tense, and the past is always written in the future tense."

"Why?" I asked.

"No one knows," he said.

"We may be moving against the stream of time," said Steinsaltz, noting that the laws of physics are "time-symmetric," that they run just as well backwards as forwards in time.

He opened his Bible, looking for a passage from the first of the prophets, Isaiah. "Here, in Isaiah, it says that you need to look backwards to see the future," he said.

"Where Isaiah says, `Tell the things that are to come hereafter,' you can translate the same words to read, `They told the future backwards.'

"In fact, you can translate the same words to read, `Tell the letters in reverse.' It's like mirror writing."

I looked at the letters backwards, but found no startling revelation. Only years later, after I discovered that Isaiah seemed to foretell an atomic attack, did I look at that same verse again.

Isaiah 41:23 states, "Tell the things that are to come hereafter, and we will be dismayed, and behold it together."

And now when I looked at the' letters in reverse, the future told backwards, I saw that the mirror writing spelled out a year-"5756."

It was not in a code. It was just there.

In the 2500-year-old verse that "told the future backwards," 1996, the year of the threatened "atomic holocaust," was plainly stated.

And so was the delay.

Overlapping "5756" the reverse text openly stated, "They changed the time."

The question asked by the same Hebrew letters that spell the year 5756 -"Will you change it?"-had been answered decisively in the most ancient vision of the Apocalypse.

The answer was openly stated in the verse we are told to read backwards -"You will change it."

More than 2000 years ago, in the first Apocalypse, the first prophet, Isaiah, foretold the year of the real Armageddon, 1996, and also the delay. One question remained unanswered-until when?

I saw Eli Rips one last time on New Years Eve 1996. We looked again at the statistics for the two years most strongly linked to all the events of the Apocalypse.

The years 2000 and 2006, in the ancient calendar 5760 and 5766, were the only two years in the next hundred that matched both "atomic holocaust" and "World War." All the dangers stated in the code-"the End of Days," "holocaust of Israel," even "great earthquake"-also matched "in 5766." Rips calculated the odds. They were at least a thousand to one.

"It is something exceptional, really remarkable," said Rips. "Someone intentionally put this information into the Torah."

That much was clear. But neither of us knew if the danger was real. I told Rips that I could not fully believe it because I still could not accept the open prophecy of the Bible, I still could not accept that there really would be an End of Days.

"If you accept the hidden statement in the Torah," said Rips, "then you should also accept the open statement."

There was a logic to what he said. There was no doubt that the computerized code appeared to support the long-known prophecy of the Bible, and yet for me there was a difference. I had seen one come true, and not the other.

"I believed the Bible code was real the day Rabin was killed," I explained, recalling the moment.

"I was at a train station, leaning against a wall, talking to a friend on a pay phone. Suddenly he interrupted and said, `Wait a minute, I want to hear the news about Rabin.' I had been out all day, I hadn't heard anything, but I instantly knew that the prediction had come true, that Rabin was dead.

"I slid down the wall, all the way to the floor. And I said, to myself but out loud, `Oh my God, it's real.'"

Rips said he understood. "It was my own feeling, exactly, when the Scud missiles were fired at Israel on the second day of the Gulf War, on the date we found three weeks in advance in the Bible code," he said.

"I was in a sealed room with my whole family. My wife, my five young children, and I were all wearing gas masks. We could hear the air-raid sirens outside. It was 2 AM on the 3rd of Shevat, January 18, 1991. That was the day that had been encoded.

"I knew the missiles were flying at us, we heard that Tel Aviv had already been hit, and all I could think was, `It works! The code works!"'

Rips had been investigating the Bible code for six years by the time the Gulf War started, as predicted, when predicted. But it was not until the night the Scuds hit Israel that he fully believed it was real, just as I had not fully believed it until Rabin was assassinated, as predicted, when predicted.

"I believed it before as a mathematician," said Rips. "But this was quite another perspective. It was an odd moment of joy in that sealed room, waiting for the missile to strike."

Another scientist had once told me of similar mixed feelings, how he had felt when he discovered that all life on Earth might be doomed. I wrote the first cover story about that Apocalyptic warning, Sherry Rowland's discovery that the ozone was being destroyed by man-made chemicals, at a time when he was dismissed as a crackpot, when everyone was calling him "Chicken Little." And now I remembered what he told me when he was proven right, and won the Nobel prize.

"There was no moment of Eureka! really," said Rowland. "I just came home one night and told my wife, `The work is going very well, but it looks like the end of the world.'"

Now, on New Year's Eve in Jerusalem, in the city that the Bible code warned would be the target of an atomic attack that might trigger the real Armageddon, I told Eli Rips that story, and we both laughed.

But I could not forget that, according to the Bible code, within ten years an "atomic holocaust" in Israel might trigger a third "World War," that we might already be in the real "End of Days."

THERE is no way to ignore the clear fact that a computerized code in the Bible, confirmed by some of the most famous mathematicians in the world, a code that accurately predicted the Gulf War, the collision of a comet with Jupiter, and the assassination of Rabin, also seems to state that the Apocalypse starts now, that within a decade we may face the real Armageddon, a nuclear World War.

But the Bible code is more than a warning. It may be the information we need to prevent the predicted disaster.

"Code will save" appears right above "atomic holocaust," just below "the End of Days."

It is not a promise of divine salvation. It is not a threat of inevitable doom. It is just information. The message of the Bible code is that we can save ourselves.

In the end, what we do determines the outcome. So we are left where we have always been, with one big difference-we now know that we are not alone.