The storm's rainbow

From all the stories that have emerged in the aftermath, it’s become evident that the storm could have been worse

Lightning strikes over the Mediterranean sea during a rain storm near the city of Ashkelon (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Lightning strikes over the Mediterranean sea during a rain storm near the city of Ashkelon
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The floods that struck Israel last week have shown how the country’s infrastructure is incapable of coping with the extreme climate crisis the world is facing these days.
It is being felt everywhere, as evidenced by the wildfires raging in Australia. In Israel, the severe rain and flooding had a devastating outcome. Seven people lost their lives.
But from all the stories that have emerged in the aftermath, it’s become evident that it could have been worse. In some cases, heroes stepped up and offered assistance, like Moti Ben-Shabat, 38, from Nahariya.
Ben-Shabat saw a family crying for help in the middle of a raging river that in a usual day is just a normal street. He jumped inside the raging current to save them. While he managed to help them escape, Ben-Shabat was carried away, and his body was found several hours later.
He is just one example of people who rose to the task and filled the void in a country that seems to be challenged by a rainstorm. And it pointed to one of the only rays of sunshine to emerge from the whole affair.
One of the main areas that suffered the most in these storms was the Western Galilee and the shores of the Kinneret, areas populated by both Jewish and Arab communities.
In various media reports, it was noted that Arab residents with a license to operate heavy machinery used their professional knowledge and ability and went down to the shore to assist with tractors and loaders and rescue those who needed help.
Channel 12’s Furat Nassar acknowledged this contribution and tweeted: “[We need to thank] by name those who came to the rescue from Mazra’a, Tarshiha, Shfar’am, Sheikh Danoun and Haifa: Salim Matari, Issa Duraz, Mohammad Hasirmi, Ibrahim Wissam, Ahmad Firas, Mohammad Ja’afri,” and the list went on.
It could be assumed that this is just a partial list – of both Arab and Jews – who voluntarily decided to leave their homes on a stormy day, arrive at the scene of the dangerous floods and assist their neighbors, without expectations of receiving anything in return.
In a report on Wednesday night, Nassar talks to a man named Jihad, who arrived at besieged Nahariya, which was forced to shut down by the weather. He came there to help civilians cross the flooded roads, carrying them on the bucket of his loader.
“[I saw that] the situation here was hard, and people could die here [due to the large amount of] water,” Jihad said. “I thought I must help them, because [it seemed] no one is helping them. In the last few hours people came here to help with their loaders,” he added.
These actions are so different from that of the country’s leadership. While our leaders try to score political points on the back of different groups in our country, citizens are proving that it could be done differently.
Many Arab citizens are feeling excluded when it comes to the political sphere. The 20th Knesset passed or advanced some laws that were aimed directly at the Arab minority. Among them are the Muezzin Bill, which aims to impose limitations on the call to prayer in mosques; the Kaminitz Law, which toughens the restrictions on illegal building without addressing planning issues; and the Nation-State Law, which downgrades the status of Arabic languages.
While these laws have their upsides, and many Arabs would support most of their components, it seems the main perception of them is that they were done unilaterally with the intention of imposing them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also has had a big part in this sense of alienation. After “the Arabs are running in droves to the polling station” in 2015, his Facebook bot last September said the Arab citizens “want to kill us all – women, children, and men.”
Even Netanyahu’s main opponent, Blue and White, doesn’t seem to offer  a big change in its attitude to Arabs. Among its 33 MKs, there is not even one Arab.
These citizens who ascended above the political area showed us that in real life, things can work differently.
In mixed areas such as the Galilee, the Sharon, the Negev and in cities like Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv-Jaffa, there is a different reality in which people actually coexist.
Let’s hope the heroism shown by Israelis toward each other last week also will prompt our elected representatives to aspire to reach higher ground.