When two earthquakes struck northern Israel within a span of 12 hours last month, it grabbed the attention of the nation’s leaders, at least temporarily.
Everyone knows, or at least assumes, that one day Israel will be hit by another massive earthquake of the kind that has laid waste to the Holy Land in centuries past. But with so many other concerns and dangers, focus on the earthquake threat quickly fades.
“It gives us a reminder of the enormous danger knocking on our door. In my opinion this is not given enough attention,” said Shuki Ohana, mayor of the northern town of Tsefat (Safed), following the two late January tremors, which measured 3.7 and 3.5 respectively on the Richter scale.
Those were relatively minor earthquakes. But Israel sits on one of the longest and most volatile continental rifts in the world. There is consensus among experts that a “big one” is coming.
According to Mayor Jacky Levy, when that big one does come, his town of Beit Shean, which sits right in that rift valley, is going to face catastrophe. Government assessments presented by Levy to Army Radio speak of at least 10,000 dead, which is half of Beit Shean’s population.
“Everyone knows that there is going to be an earthquake but no one is doing anything,” Levy warned. “The State of Israel doesn’t know how to handle an earthquake and the number of casualties will be insane.”
Levy and others have been lobbying for years for an increased budget to reinforce sub-standard buildings, many of them residential, across the country. But with the Corona pandemic further stretching Israel’s state budget, it’s an uphill battle, to say the least.