by Rabino Roberto Feldmann
A few years ago, some experts decided to degrade a planet which mythologically ruled the underworld, and reduced its dignity to a mere asteroid. Why? because its orbit was a little erratic, a bit shifted, and more elliptical than its other celestial brethren.
Chile is not a country, but a "cornice of the Andes", García Márquez once said. And Pablo Neruda added, "Of night, snow and sand is my homeland made". And of template jungles, emerald lakes, ancient volcanoes, and misty Paleolithic beaches with seaweed as big as Leviathan's fins. The Torah adds the notion of "Eretz Ochelet Yoshveha" (Numbers 13:32), a land that devours its inhabitants.
I have been born and raised in Chile. I hardly move or bother for earthquakes less than 7 degrees, but rather enjoy the majestic pudding the whole nature and man-made structures are turned to. A moonwalk, if you will. But this year, eretz ochelet yoshvea had an ominous sense of reality. The largest earthquake ever recorded in human history, almost 10º in the Richter scale, literally raised and sank entire provinces and their inhabitants.
"Its much harder to push our fishing boats up to the sea, complained an old fisherman in Cobquecura, but fish fall into the sand, so that's a reward that compensates it". A couple who had just build their dream house at the beach of the coastal village of Iloca, complained: "the house has now a magnificent view of the Andes, but the ocean is now too far away and can be seen from the kitchen only".
And we here thought that these normal occurrences in our lives in this humbling geography, were over for some time at least. But Mother Earth is so alive here, that a rather small mine, not deeper than a kilometer vertically down the Atacama desert, collapsed, with all the miners below 700 meters (2000 feet deep) trapped in the bowels of a restless, whimsical mountain.
President Piñera U-turned the airplane taking him to the installation ceremony of Colombia's new president, and returned to Santiago immediately, then directly to the mine, in a remote location some 500 miles (800 kilometers) north of Santiago.
Eretz achal yoshveha. The Earth had devoured the miners. Like Korach and his entourage. Desperate loved ones started flocking up the mine, and after a few hours the jungle of contradictory information subsided, and factual information of where the collapse happened, and what chances of survival the miners had, emerged.
The families started to camp in the cold of the desert night and the heat of the desert day, -the driest in the planet-. They called it "Campamento Esperanza" -"Camp Hope"-. President Piñera, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, they all stay put right there, making sure the best plan, the best equipment could drill a catheter down its way to hell almost, in a delirious yet careful nonstop tempo towards them. They enquired for every detail, made sure every minute aspect was well taken care of.
The mountain was so silent, the unrelenting hope of loved ones, spouses, children, friends, who were sleeping in shifts, helping the rescuers, whose task became more technical and sophisticated as the hours passed. One week passed, two weeks, and the mine which has primitive refuges every so hundred meters down the intestines of the mine, was an enigma: Nobody knew whether they were in there, or buried alive in the rubble a kilometer down the desert surface. Mining Minister once choked his tears, when having to transmit the experts' prognosis. Only a slim 2% chances they could be alive, perhaps less. An angry woman confronted him and told him: "Don't bother us with your experts' facts Mr. Minister; we have called our camp with a more realistic name: 'Campamento Esperanza', 'Camp Hope' ". Some of the experts, the kind that downgrade planets, calculated what a human being needs to survive in exactly the heat and humidity conditions to be found down there, and made sermons about the geology of the mountain, reduced hope to naught, mixing their petulance with what they call "realism".