What this week’s rains have shown is that solutions need to be found to the mundane challenges, even though laying drainage pipes might not be as exciting as developing algorithms for a laser sword.
By JPOST EDITORIAL
Headlines on the front page of The Jerusalem Post on Thursday provided a good snapshot of Israel, circa 2020.The main photo’s headline was, “One dead as heavy rains flood North, center,” in reference to Wednesday’s floods that turned Haifa into Venice and Nahariya into a ghost town.Below that was another story headlined: “Israel unveils breakthrough laser to shoot down missiles,” a story about the Defense Ministry’s announcement that it had developed new laser technology to deal with aerial threats against Israel – from drones to mortar shells to missiles.And there you have it: the bonehead and the brilliant, the beauty and the beast – all in headlines, all on one page – all in one day, all in one country, side by side.The bonehead has to do with the country’s lack of proper infrastructure to deal with the winter rains.Granted, the downpours of last week were unusually heavy, and the amount of rainfall a veritable deluge. But this is not the first time it has rained in this country.Israel is rain obsessed: we desperately need rain, yearn for rain, pray for rain – and the veterans among us make a pastime of watching to see how much the Kinneret rises each winter. Yet when the rain comes, year after year, we don’t know how to deal with them.Almost every winter, and not just this one, we witness scenes of elite units rescuing people from their flooded homes in south Tel Aviv or in some town near Haifa.Yet nothing changes. The rains hit, the floods follow, the sun shines, the land dries, and all is forgotten.Nahariya was hit particularly hard by this week’s rain, revealing shocking neglect of basic infrastructure in a city of some 60,000 people.There is no excuse for not having in place proper drainage systems so that when it rains – even when it rains hard – emergency vehicles are able to get to the town’s hospital, and the residents of a city of 60,000 are allowed out of their homes.Natural disasters happen; that is part of life. But what should not be part of life – at least not in a country as technologically advanced as Israel – is to lack the infrastructure needed so that when natural disasters happen, their deleterious effects can be minimized.This week’s flooding is symptomatic of a greater infrastructure problem that desperately needs to be addressed. Just as there are not enough sewers to deal with our rain, there are not enough hospital beds to treat our sick, roads to handle our cars, or trains to deal with those who want to travel by rail.Israel has a tendency to deal with problems as they come up, on an ad hoc basis – and it often does that pretty well. But it does not solve the problems; only finds scotch-tape solutions.For instance, residents in Tel Aviv were busy Wednesday filling up sandbags to try and keep the next storm from again flooding their living rooms. And that might actually work. But since it will work, then in a couple months when the rains will be forgotten, and other problems will have sprouted up, no long-term solution will be found for the city’s water drainage problem.The only exception is in the area of defense. There is where the country’s brilliance is on display. The Defense Ministry’s announcement Wednesday of a technological breakthrough making it possible to intercept aerial threats is mind boggling. This is Star Wars weaponry – a powerful laser sword – jumping off the big screen and into the hands of IDF soldiers.This technological breakthrough is also symptomatic of how things work in this country: solutions are found to defense challenges.Throw a security challenge at Israel – from suicide bombers, to terror tunnels, to ballistic missiles – and Israel will find a way to deal with it. Until the next challenge crops up, when a new solution will be found.But what this week’s rains have shown is that solutions need to be found to the mundane challenges as well. Laying drainage pipes might not be as exciting as developing algorithms for a laser sword, but go ask the people in Nahariya this morning which is more relevant right now to their lives.
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