Soaked with news about rain
Hebrew media review

Soaked with news about rain

Water problems -- for once not a lack of it -- get top billing in every paper

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Floods near the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv due to heavy rain on January 7. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Floods near the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv due to heavy rain on January 7. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Water, water everywhere and none of it’s going away. The Israeli public moans about the deluge that continues to pour down on the country, and the front page of the four major papers shows the same incredible sight — Tel Aviv’s Ayalon freeway and railway tracks engulfed in water.

Haaretz reports that the flooding occurred across the country, not just in Tel Aviv. At least two were injured, and dozens required rescue by emergency services or the army after getting trapped in their homes or cars. The main highway through Tel Aviv, the Ayalon freeway, was shut down in both directions for two hours, it reports, causing massive traffic jams throughout the rest of the city.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls the results of the deluge “A country underwater” and reports that this storm that has shut the country down is the worst the country has seen in two decades. The paper even showed an image of its front page from December 1991 in which the headline reads: “The rain silenced half the country.” Nearly half of the 27 pages of Wednesday’s paper is devoted to the weather.

The paper also reports that fire and rescue teams worked through the night to help citizens trapped in buildings and cars get to safety. In the city of Hadera, “a fire station in the city was flooded and taken out of service after the water rose to a meter inside the station.” In the shopping center next door, over 100 people became trapped by the rising waters and had to be rescued by the fire crews in dinghies. Several refused to be rescued and insisted on remaining in the stores.

Maariv reports that the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water source, rose nearly centimeter an hour in a single day — a total of 22 centimeters (8.6 inches), the highest single-day jump since 2003 and the second-largest since 1969. Damage caused by the storm is projected to reach at least half a billion shekels, according to statistics published by the paper.

Thus far the four-day storm has incurred NIS 280 million in damage, of which NIS 50 million was to private property, NIS 80 million to infrastructure like roads, railways, power lines, etc., NIS 70 million to agricultural lands and parks, and an estimated NIS 80 million from lost work hours and wasted gasoline because of massive traffic delays.

Dan Margalit, waxing poetic in Israel Hayom on the occasion of the wet weather, writes that the cascades of water dousing the nation from head to toe causes “the heart to quake for those who were caught in a raging torrent and were nearly hopeless for rescue” and causes “the heart to increase its beat for the thought of those beloved youths with the rifles on their shoulders and the thick coveralls and muddy boots in gorge and valley.” He says that while it’s a pain and a bother now, we’ll miss it next summer when we have to limit our water usage.

Cloyingly twee though his imagery is, comparing the Jordan River to the magnitude of Niagara Falls was beyond the pale. “To see the flow of the Jordan as if it were Niagara Falls… and feel anew old loves that will never return again,” he writes.

Hang on a second, Margalit. There’s nothing wrong with a little poetic hyperbole, but you’ve crossed a line. Here is a picture of the Jordan River during this storm, and following that is one of Niagara on an average Tuesday. One has 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) raging over it every minute, the other barely registers a fraction of that per hour after four days of torrential rain.

The swollen Jordan River in the Hula Valley on Monday morning. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
The swollen Jordan River in the Hula Valley on Monday morning. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Niagara Falls. (photo credit: CC BY ilkerender, Flickr)
Niagara Falls. (photo credit: CC BY ilkerender, Flickr)

Surprisingly, there are other things happening in the world. Despite the fact that everyone in Israel only cares about the weather this week, Haaretz runs a New York Times article about how Syrian President Bashar Assad was planning for a chemical weapons strike. According to The Times, after the IDF reported Syria’s preparations of chemical weapons to the Pentagon, “The combination of a public warning by [US President Barack] Obama and more sharply worded private messages sent to the Syrian leader and his military commanders through Russia and others, including Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan, stopped the chemical mixing and the bomb preparation.”

Maariv seems to be the only other paper that reports on news besides the rain. According to the paper, there is an initiative in the Likud party to have the prime minister appoint Communications Minster Moshe Kahlon, who announced his resignation from public life earlier this year, as housing minister in the next government. Grassroots supporters and Knesset candidates reportedly want Kahlon to be brought back in to garner more votes ahead of the coming elections.

Kahlon, writes Maariv, is undecided.

David Biton, No. 35 on the Likud-Beytenu list, is one of the proponents of the measure, and told Maariv that should it be adopted, it would happen in the coming days.

“He is perfectly suited for this matter,” Biton is quoted saying. “Housing is the most important matter at the moment in terms of subjects on the docket. If he will be housing minister, he will bring suitable solutions.”

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