Monday, August 8, 2011


Yesterday I felt a minor earthquake. At about 11:55, everything shook from side to side, just one shake. I soon discovered that this earthquake had been felt in many places along Israel's coast, that its magnitude was 4.2, and that its epicentre was about 40 km. west, out at sea. Experts say this is a rare location for earthquakes, which normally happen along the Syria-Africa fault line. If a more serious earthquake happens out at sea, this could cause extensive damage and loss of life along Israel's coast, the most densely populated part of the country.

This was not the worst earthquake I have experienced. I think I have felt 4-5 worse than this, and a few similar ones, over the past few years. None of these caused much damage. Israel is a place where there have been many serious earthquakes in the past, and the next big one is statistically likely to happen soon.

For years experts have been warning the government that the country is not prepared for a major earthquake. Most of the buildings built before the 1980s are likely to collapse. There could be serious damage to infrastructure, and the loss of life could be more significant than in any war or previous natural disaster. The short-sightedness of the authorities in ignoring this risk is staggering, and I can imagine the sort of commission of inquiry that would investigate the negligence after the fact. When experts give this sort of warning, they should be taken seriously. The regional security situation is not necessarily the greatest threat to this country. We may eventually make peace with all our neighbours, but there is no way to prevent an earthquake, only to prepare as much as possible to minimize the damage it might cause.

The idea that my home might well be destroyed in an earthquake, and that I could die or be injured in it, is just another of the background stresses in my life. I try not to think about it, just as I prefer not to dwell on the likeliness of another war, of another wave of terrorist attacks, and so on. But knowing that nobody is making the necessary preparations is frustrating and infuriating.

I can only wish that no serious earthquakes hit densely populated areas anywhere in the world, but I know that now and then it happens, and if it happens here, a great deal of preventable damage and deaths will result.

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