Bat Hever is Israel’s Hurricane Sandy (PHOTOS)

January 21, 2013 3:45 am 0 comments

Flooding damage in Bat Hever. Photo: Josh Hasten.

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

And let’s not forget that one of our main sources of drinking water, the Kinneret (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 Hever, 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 the Palestinian Authority city of Tulkarem, last week’s storm was nothing short of a humanitarian disaster.

The extreme 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 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 Hever 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 Hurricane Sandy in the US, 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. 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.

The community’s secretary (mayor) Yair 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 to 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 who lost so much monetarily.  Here is the information on how to donate in Israel through the community’s foundation:

Emek Hever 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 Hever, meeting with community leaders and residents and witnessing their resolve first-hand, they will overcome their version of Hurricane Sandy.

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

Photos of some of the damage can be viewed below.

Flooding damage in Bat Hever. Photo: Josh Hasten.

Flooding damage in Bet Hever. Photo: Josh Hasten.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.