Israel Could Face a Massive Earthquake, and It’s Not Prepared

October 14, 2021 | Ariel Heimann
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Israeli policymakers spend much of their energy worrying about such immediate problems as Palestinian terror or the coronavirus, as well as even more troubling threats such as a major war with Hizballah, or Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb. But, argues Ariel Heimann, there is a danger, every bit as serious, that receives far less attention: that of a major earthquake in this small, densely populated country:

Israel is affected by the collisions of the African plate with the European plate, and mainly by the friction stemming from the motion between the Arabian plate east of Israel and the African plate, which includes Israel. Many earthquakes occur along this border between the plates, which stretches from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Eilat in the south, through the Jordan Valley, and until Turkey in the north.

In the past few centuries several strong earthquakes occurred in our region, including in 1759, 1837, and 1927. Each of them caused the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of people and considerable damage, even given the relatively small number of residents and structures in the country. For example, in the 1927 earthquake, Jerusalem, Jericho, Ramle, Tiberias, and Nablus were seriously damaged, and at least 500 people were killed.

Had Israel been as heavily populated then as it is today, the number of casualties would have been far higher. . . . A scenario that was presented to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2016 estimated that about 7,000 people would be killed, 8,600 seriously injured, 28,600 buildings destroyed, . . . and 170,000 people evacuated from their homes for the long term. In such a scenario, Israel would have a high likelihood of entering a state of ongoing disaster.

But, writes Heimann, the news is not all bad, as there is much the Jewish state can do to be better prepared, and indeed it has already made some small but important steps in that direction.

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