After a series of four minor earthquakes hit northern Israel between last Thursday and Sunday afternoon, Israel's government signaled growing concern that hundreds of thousands of buildings across the country could crumble if and when a larger tremor hits.
Residents of northern Israel, particularly those living near the Sea of Galilee, were shook by an earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale on Thursday. Two days later, a 3.0 trembler hit the same area, and yesterday, not one, but two earthquakes both measuring 3.6 were felt just hours apart.
Minor earthquakes are not uncommon in the region, and rarely cause any serious damage. But expert have been warning for years that eventually a larger earthquake will strike, and that when it does, Israel could be in for great catastrophe.
Using the recent string of earthquakes as a pretext, Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan on Sunday called an emergency government meeting to assess where Israel is at regarding its preparedness to deal with a major earthquake scenario.
With the poor building standards used in the construction of thousands of structures across the country, but especially in the north, any major earthquake with its epicenter in or near to Israel is expected to cause thousands of casualties.
At Sunday's government meeting, various officials assured Erdan that their agencies and government bodies are prepared and continue to prepare for a such an occurrence. Those gathered also agreed to keep in closer contact with seismologists monitoring the situation.
Over the past few years, Israel's Home Front Command has held a number of national drills that simulated the aftermath of a major earthquake. The official Home Front Command website also presents detailed instructions on how people should respond when an earthquake hits.
In 2005, Israel also created National Outline Plan 38 to stabilize and reinforce older structures or those built under more faulty building codes. The plan encourages local contractors to take these improvements upon themselves in return for financial benefits provided by the state. Unfortunately, the incentive has been too little for most, and many officials no longer believe the plan is viable.