A massive earthquake struck Turkey and Syria last week, killing more than 25,000 people and the number is expected to continue to rise.
According to experts, it is only a matter of time before a massive quake shakes the state of Israel with the potential to cause significant damage and high numbers of casualties. Nevertheless, the government does not seem to be doing anything. That needs to change now.
Last year, for example, Beit Shean Mayor Jacky Levy said that he was told in 2005 that if a massive earthquake strikes the Syrian-African fault line, Beit Shean would be particularly damaged, due to its proximity to the rift and the low standard of building in the town, home to approximately 20,000 people. Half of his city’s residents he said could be killed.
Levy made these comments after two small earthquakes struck Israel. Nothing big enough to cause damage but enough to shake residents.
At the time, Levy said that when he served as deputy minister of construction between 2015 and 2018, a plan had been placed before the cabinet that was supposed to see the investment of NIS 5 billion toward reinforcing buildings in hotspots like Beit Shean, Safed and Tiberas - all cities that sit along the Syrian-African fault line. The money, he said, was never allocated.
And this is what doesn’t make sense. Where is the government? What is particularly strange is that the current government has dozens of ministers, many of them who don’t even have jobs, who could be tasked with overseeing preparations for an earthquake.
Last week, for example, Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Likud MK Dudi Amsalem as a minister within the Justice Ministry. Amsalem wasn’t made the justice minister (that role is filled by Yariv Levin), but just as a second minister to sit within the Justice Ministry. There is a similar situation at the Education Ministry where there is an education minister and a second minister who sits in the ministry. A similar situation exists at the Welfare Ministry where there is a welfare minister and another minister who also sits in the ministry.
With all of these officials, who don’t have any real authority over the ministries in which they sit in, why is there not one who is put in charge of creating a strategic plan that would bring together all relevant government offices and institutions to prepare the country for the possibility of a massive earthquake or other natural disasters like what happened last week in Turkey and Syria?
Any one of these ministers who sit in offices without real authority or anything to do could be a potential candidate to be the integrator that is needed to get the entire government behind a plan that will see money, resources and manpower dedicated to preparing the country and cities like Beit Shean on for the eventuality of an earthquake.
A common misconception is that nothing can be done to protect oneself from an earthquake. This is only partially true. We cannot prevent earthquakes from happening. What we can do though, is reinforce buildings and infrastructure, so that when an earthquake strikes, the damage and the number of casualties will be limited and lower than the alternative.
Sadly, this government is more focused on passing legislation that will not save lives and will not prepare this country for disasters that might be around the corner and which could strike at any moment.
Stop focusing on Deri
Instead of using the time since Monday’s tragic disaster to the north of us to start work on getting the country ready, this government is more focused on passing a law in the Knesset this week that will allow it to appoint Deri – a convicted felon - to service as a minister, even though many in the coalition believe that this law will also be struck down by the High Court of Justice.
It is time the government takes its role seriously and gets serious about preparing Israel for what might happen. Appoint a minister in charge of preparing the country for an earthquake, stop trying to pass special laws for Aryeh Deri and start working on saving lives. When an earthquake strikes, a Deri law will be the last thing anyone will care about.