Country gasps through heat wave

Electricity consumption breaks records; environmentalists say it's heating up all over.

sun 88 (photo credit: )
sun 88
(photo credit: )
Even as temperatures began to drop on Sunday, the heat wave that has rocked Israel continued to wreak havoc. Electricity consumption in Israel reached a new high on Sunday, hitting a record 10,040 megawatts consumed by 3 p.m. On Sunday afternoon, a French tourist died of heat stroke while hiking in Nahal David at Ein Gedi. The man, an epileptic in his 40s, lost consciousness and was helicoptered in serious condition to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, where he later died. Over the weekend, a 15-year-old yeshiva student collapsed during a hike in Nahal Amud in the North due to dehydration. He sustained severe head trauma in the fall and had to be helicoptered to Ziv Hospital in Safed, where he died. Another 14 people in northern Israel have been hospitalized for dehydration since the heat wave started last week. Injuries resulting from direct exposure to the sun were not the only dangers of the most recent heat wave. Fires have been flaring up all over the country. Firefighter crews have been scrambled to extinguish blazes in locations from Herzliya's Marina Tower to Kibbutz Amiad in the North. "I think there is absolutely no doubt that this is one of the effects of global warming," Professor Dan Rabinowitz, Chairman of environmental agency Chaim V'Sviva, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "This is not going to get any better. In fact, it's going to get worse." Rabinowitz citing the fact that nine of the hottest years ever worldwide have been recorded in the last eleven years. This heat wave, despite not breaking any records, is part of a trend of rising temperatures in Israel and across the globe. Over the last thirty years, Israel's average temperature at dawn has risen by over two degrees centigrade. Fires such as the ones blazing up throughout Israel are what environmentalists call feedback mechanisms - instances in which global warming breeds itself as the fires pump heat back into the atmosphere, destroying carbon dioxide-negating, oxygen-producing plants. According to Rabinowitz, the heat creates a cycle of energy consumption that feeds on itself by burning fuel to keep air conditioners running. The Israel Electric Company has released public service announcements over the past few days encouraging customers to avoid using high-wattage appliances such as dishwashers and clothes wdryers during the afternoon and to keep air-conditioners set at 25 degrees or above. Rabinowitz explained that the biggest effect Israelis could have on the ever-increasing heat was to assume the role of conscientious citizens. "Write to our Knesset members, help create the buzz [for an issue on] which Israel seems to be lagging at least a decade behind the rest of the world," said Rabinowitz. The Environment Ministry receives roughly NIS 250 million annually, less than .5 percent of the total state budget. Rabinowitz estimates the ministry's allocation should be at least 25% larger. To date, Israel's hottest summer was in 1998. Recently, the regional climate has experienced both hot and cold extremes. 2000 saw the heaviest snowfall on record in the Negev. Weather forecasts have predicted a gradual decrease in temperatures, with temperatures returning to normal midweek. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.