December 16: Readers comment on the nation’s weather preparedness

There now is an opportunity to carry the main, high-voltage lines to the city in the new railway tunnels under construction from Sha’ar Hagai.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Readers comment on the nation’s weather preparedness
Sir, – With regard to “Worst snowstorm in decades paralyzes country” (December 15), the failure of the Israel Electric Corporation to ensure the supply of electricity to our capital city requires that those responsible both there and at the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure be fired because they did not make sufficient provisions for such weather conditions.
In those areas of the city where the electrical cables are buried underground there was negligible failure. But where the cables are suspended from pylons along the roads (a practice of bygone days), there were major failures. For a “start-up nation,” we resemble a Third World country in this respect.
There now is an opportunity to carry the main, high-voltage lines to the city in the new railway tunnels under construction from Sha’ar Hagai. Not only will this solve many problems, but it will produce a more aesthetic solution to the unsightly pylons currently over the countryside.
Of course, there is an associated cost element, but the benefit of planning for the future outweighs such considerations.
Sir, – The front-page photograph of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat displaying the capital’s preparedness for the expected snowstorm by posing before a municipal rock salt spreader (“Jerusalemites’ thoughts turn to snowflakes,” December 11) was a plain photo opportunity without any meaning.
In a radio interview with Reshet Bet on Friday at about 7:15 a.m., Barkat was questioned as to why Jerusalem’s roads had not been gritted with rock salt prior to the snowfall. He claimed that this was not the practice anywhere in the world. The radio host advised him that it was the practice in the US and elsewhere. The mayor’s response was that it was not. So much for a knowledgeable mayor! It is common practice in both the US and Europe for municipalities to send out rock salt spreaders prior to the onset of snow falls in order to keep major traffic arteries open. All Barkat needed to do was pick up the phone and consult with his counterparts in New York or London, or even the manufacturers of the rock salt spreaders.
It is clear that the position of mayor in Israel should follow practices in the UK and elsewhere, where the mayor is just a political figurehead responsible, with councilors, for policy, leaving day-to-day operations and strategy to a paid executive team. Each of our municipalities should have a chief executive responsible for effecting policy and central government decisions instead of the current practice, which resulted in the farce in Jerusalem.
During our recent municipal elections, the main voter complaints in the capital related to litter, potholes and damaged sidewalks, as well as the time it took to remove detritus after previous storms. Perhaps Barkat, who has brought Western culture to Jerusalem at great expense to local residents, might bring some of the world’s better practices in terms of services.
COLIN L. LECI Jerusalem
Sir, – As an emergency manager before I made aliya, I was deeply engaged in preparedness operations for the US House of Representatives in Washington. I was involved in the response to earthquakes, terrorist incidents, security situations, armed individuals, suspicious aircraft and major special events where heads of state and congressional leaders had gathered.
I understand the importance of preparedness. I understand the importance of having a unified response structure. And I understand that, even in the most prepared departments and situations, your best-laid preparedness plans can go pieces in just a moment.
While I was not present in Jerusalem or at the command center to see how officials dealt with the snow emergency, I did incessantly follow Twitter, the news and personal reports, and I must hand it to the emergency crews and volunteers who came out to help. In my opinion, there is little, if any, room for condemnation.
There is always room for improvement, even in the most excellently executed plans. Perhaps some decisions could have been made earlier, such as closing off Route 1 and Route 443 before the storm. Maybe Egged could have stopped its service earlier. Perhaps the IDF should have pre-staged equipment in the area.
The fact is, however, that the level of response we witnessed would never have occurred in the United States. To highlight just how good the response was, not a single person died in the Jerusalem area because of the storm. Yes, four people, sadly, died during the storm, but not one of those deaths was the result of a failed rescue attempt or an inability to seek help.
I wish to commend and congratulate the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Police, the IDF, Zaka, United Hatzalah, the electric and gas companies, Egged, Citipass and all the volunteers and organizations that provided help during this unprecedented event. Don’t let people tell you this was not a job well done. You have proven yourselves to be the pride of our people and the pride of our country.
Thank you!
DOVID COHEN Beit Shemesh
The writer worked for 10 years in the Office of the Sergeant at Arms for the US House of Representatives, performing a wide array of emergency management, security and IT duties
Sir, – It was late Friday afternoon (Friday the 13th, no less).
Shabbat was almost upon us.The weather in Mevaseret Zion was close to blizzard conditions. A mother and father were schlepping along the main street with their eight children in tow. It was not so many years ago that this young Filipino family had embraced Judaism. What would they now do for Shabbat? For meals? For sleeping? And the mother was nearly ready to give birth to number nine.
Out of the whirlwind came the sexton of one of the local synagogues. “Do you need assistance? A place to stay?” The family was experiencing its very own Elijah the Prophet to rescue them in the nick of time. Its members were afforded the very best guest accommodations by the local Sephardi rabbi. They received the highest honors on Shabbat morning at services. At a very special luncheon they were acclaimed by the local Ethiopian immigrant population.
As the family prepared for the precious and holy Shabbat afternoon nap, the mother went into labor. The sexton, a certified Magen David Adom emergency medical technician, helped her with the birth. A beautiful, healthy baby girl was born.
At the afternoon Torah reading the baby was named. You guessed it: Mevaseret Ziona.
Sir, – Israel Railways ran two trains on Shabbat to and from Jerusalem on account of the storm. This could have been highly appropriate and desirable from all points of view if it did the right thing by picking up stranded people waving them down at every station, and even elsewhere along the tracks.
Important trains in the US and Canada, like the Canadian, the California Zephyr and the Empire Builder, have a history of doing just that in blizzards. Even fast, time-sensitive container trains have done this and carried people in locomotives and cabooses.
The *Post* stated that the trains would stop only at a few important stations. If this is what happened, it tells me that Israel Railways is not in any way responsive to public needs and simply was looking for an excuse to run trains on Shabbat.
I have long believed that the management of Israel Railways regards the railroad as its personal train set.
Sir, – Many thanks, Jerusalem Post. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to have the paper reach us early on Friday and Sunday. Kol hakavod!