Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →