Preparing for rain

However, along with rain’s many blessings have come casualties and damage caused by wet roads, flooding and felled trees.

Rain water creates floods and puddles in Jerusalem (photo credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Rain water creates floods and puddles in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
On the 7th of Heshvan (October 23), observant Jews began praying for rain three times a day (until Passover) in the ninth blessing of the Amida prayer: “Bless this year and all its produce for the good of all of us, O Lord our God, and grant dew and rain as a blessing on the face of the earth....”
After years of drought, we have now been blessed with plentiful rains. The level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) rose in December by 50 centimeters – the highest monthly rise in nearly two decades. And the positive trend is continuing.
Between Monday and Tuesday the Kinneret registered another 22-centimeter rise, the highest one-day addition to the Kinneret since measurements first began years ago.
The Kinneret is currently about 210 centimeters below sea level.
Record rainfalls have been recorded on the Golan Heights, the Western Galilee, Meron, Haifa and even in centrally located places like Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba. The rain is expected to continue through Thursday and spread to the South.
Snow has begun falling on the Hermon and is expected in additional locations at an altitude of about 700 meters or higher, such as Jerusalem.
Hillel Glassman of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority called the rainfall “a celebration of water in nature that we have not enjoyed in years” and added that “the Kinneret is filling up at an insane pace.”
However, along with rain’s many blessings have come casualties and damage caused by wet roads, flooding and felled trees.
Three men were killed and another injured in a traffic accident on Tuesday when a motorist lost control of his car on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway.
Police shut down the Ayalon, Tel Aviv’s main highway, as it was overrun by the tremendous amount of rainwater racing through the Ayalon riverbed, which runs along the highway.
All lanes in both directions from the Glilot interchange to the Kibbutz Galiyot exit, which covers the entire length of Israel’s commercial capital, were closed for hours, causing insuperable delays and traffic jams that effectively paralyzed the city. Train service was also discontinued, making getting in and out of the city a near impossibility for commuters.
The buses that operated were overloaded with passengers, leaving hundreds stranded. Low-lying Tel Aviv neighborhoods such as Yedidya, Ezra and Argazim were evacuated. In north Tel Aviv, the Yarkon River overflowed, endangering the Bavli neighborhood.
Tel Aviv was not the only area paralyzed by the rainfalls.
Highway 443, between Beit Horon and Jerusalem, was closed intermittently; in Modi’in Illit, the overflowing Modi’in Stream overtook a southern neighborhood, trapping resident in their homes; Route 90 near the Dead Sea was shut down; roads in the Golan Heights were also closed.
Nearly every winter, we are reminded how dreadfully unprepared our infrastructure – roads, public transportation, electric lines – truly is.
Stormy weather takes us by surprise time and time again. Declarations are made that next winter will be different.
But nothing is done. It might be true that this year’s rainfalls are extraordinary.
However, should Tel Aviv, our commercial nerve center, be completely paralyzed as the result of over-average rainfalls? Is it unavoidable that the most important transportation artery in the nation be shut down for hours while tens of thousands of commuters wait in traffic jams for hours? The CEO of the Ayalon highway, Arie Bar, admitted Tuesday that drainage lines were simply too small to handle the tremendous amounts of rainfall. The obvious solution would be to increase capacity by building larger drainage lines.
Is it economically feasible to invest millions of shekels in such a project to prepare ourselves for a phenomenon that occurs once in 20 years? If lives are at risk, perhaps the answer should be a resounding yes.
Certainly after witnessing fatalities on the road and Tel Aviv paralyzed by the latest storms, a serious reevaluation of Israel’s preparedness for inclement weather is in order.
Higher-than-average rainfalls should be nothing but a blessing.