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Israel’s hurricane ‘Sandy’ – Bat Hefer

 

For many Israelis last week’s winter storm was a blessing. At least five straight days of rain, and then snow, turned a large portion of the country into a winter wonderland.

Schools were cancelled, businesses where closed, children and adults alike were outdoors building snowmen, having snowballs fights and making snow angels.  Overall it was just a relaxing break from reality in a country where vacations are few and far in between.

And let’s not forget that one of our main sources of drinking water the Kineret (Lake of Galilee) rose to its highest point in years, some say ending a drought, which has been prevalent over the past five+ years.

Unfortunately, not everyone was able to celebrate. In the gated community of Bat Hefer, home to a diverse population of 1,500 families – both religious and secular, situated near Netanya, and whose Eastern border is literally the security barrier between Israel and Palestinian Authority city of Tulkarem, last week’s storm was nothing short of a humanitarian disaster.

The nearly successive precipitation caused the nearby Shechem River to overflow its banks.  The pressure of the rushing water on the Tulkarem side pushing up against the security barrier, literally broke a gaping hole in the structure sending a high-current river of over one million cubits of rushing water, mixed with mud and sewage flowing into Bat Hefer within an hour.

At first families who saw water seeping into their basements and ground floors got out mops thinking it was just a natural result of the rain. But then the water kept coming, and rising and rising inside their homes, reaching nearly 2 meters high in certain neighborhoods.

One resident, a 60-year-old man who was outside at the time that the rushing river came through the community fearing that he would be swept away in the current, put his arms around his outdoor pergola and held on for three straight hours, until he felt safe to let go.

While perhaps not on the level of the recent hurricane ‘Sandy’ in the US, for this community the damage was devastating.

  • Over 400 homes sustained some form of damage
  • 180 cars were swept away or destroyed
  • 60 families lost EVERYTHING, and their homes are uninhabitable. These families are currently renting apartments or living with family and friends around the country, as it’s estimated that it will take more than a half a year to renovate their homes
  • Public parks, sports fields, the basketball courts, and hockey rink, were completely destroyed beyond use
  • And much more

The community’s secretary (mayor) Yoni Ari, who gave me a tour of the disaster site, and who has barely slept since the storm – working around the clock to help the families in need, says that rough estimates indicate the damage will amount to over 50 million NIS.

According to Ari, the community is currently in negotiations with the government, specifically with the Prime Minister’s office, to discuss the greatest amount of compensation possible in order to help the families in need.

The hardest hit families says Ari, are not only those who lost their homes, but those whose insurance policies for one reason or another will not cover the loss (Ari explains that some families, may only have had either property insurance, but not homeowners insurance or vice-versa).  Also several families after paying off their mortgages were completely uninsured, never imagining a disaster of this kind in a quiet suburban gated community, which Ari explains is nearly crime-free.

Despite it all, Ari is grateful for the people of Israel from near and far who have pitched in as volunteers to help. Neighboring communities arrived with “economica” (chemical cleaner) to help clean houses from the mud and sewage. Neighbors also opened their homes to the now homeless as they sought long-term temporary living options until their homes are repaired.

Dozens and dozens of bags of clothing, blankets, sheets, shoes, kitchenware, space heaters, etc. were donated to those affected.

*I personally must thank friends new and old from communities including Gush Etzion, Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Kochav Ya’akov, Maa’le Adumim, and even MIGRON, for filling my car to maximum capacity and giving me the opportunity to drop off some of these items in Bat Hever. It was truly appreciated.

In addition, clothing companies including Fox, and companies that sell cleaning products and materials were gracious enough to donate inventory towards the cause.

The next step in the long road to recovery is assisting those monetarily who lost so much.  Here is the information on how to donate in Israel through the community’s foundation.

Emek Hefer Region – Central Cultural Fund

Bank Leumi

Branch 717

Account number 41860057

The community is also currently trying to figure out how to accept tax-deductable donations from abroad.  Once I have that information I will share it.

While it will take some time, I’m confident after spending a few hours in Bat Hefer, meeting with community leaders and residents and witnessing their resolve first-hand they will overcome their version of “Sandy.”

Anything that you can do to raise awareness, or assist financially would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Hana Apr 21, 2013

    Can you imagine the response of NYPD, or Dallas or Arkansas or MIssissippi police officers to such a situation, to a mob hurling rocks at patrol officers? Think about it for a second, folks. How do you think Boston police officers, or those in Baltimore or Seattle or Maine, would respond? How long do you think ANY group in the USA would get away with this?????????????? Could JEWS get away with this ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD???????????????????

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