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...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.