By Jerusalem Newswire Editorial Staff
February 11, 2004
Jerusalem (jnewswire.com) - An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale rocked Israel and surrounding states Wednesday morning, sending frightened people streaming into streets throughout the country, but causing only one indirect injury and little damage.
Israel Radio reported the quake left a crack in the ceiling of the Knesset plenum, Israel's parliament, just minutes before lawmakers were scheduled to take their seats for the day's debates.
Channel 2 TV reported that Israeli geologists believe a major earthquake could strike Israel without notice, and based on research predict the arrival of "the big one" in the next 50 years.
And Channel 1, screening a map highlighting areas of the capital believed to be especially susceptible to damage in the event of a major quake, pointed out that the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock - both straddling Israel's Temple Mount - were most at risk.
The finger of God?
The earthquake struck shortly after 10 in the morning, shaking buildings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and the Gaza Strip.
According to Israel Radio, staff in the Israeli Knesset thought a large bomb had gone off, and left their meeting rooms to gather in the building's corridors.
The station reported that an engineering crew discovered a crack in the ceiling of the Knesset plenum, "directly above the table at which cabinet ministers sit." The quake occurred half an hour before they were scheduled to take their seats.
At the top of the Cabinet's agenda right now is the question of unilaterally pulling all Jews out of the Gaza Strip and handing it over to the Palestinians
Centuries ago, the finger of God was seen writing a message of doom on the wall of Chaldean king Belshazzar's palace, after he desecrated temple objects sacred to the God of Israel.
Poised for catastrophe
According to a recently released report exposing the shoddy standard of construction in the country, a quake of 6.0 or over on the Richter scale is expected to flatten an untold number of buildings, leaving tens of thousands of Israelis dead - possibly many more.
A quake that big could have catastrophic results throughout Israel, where the towns and cities almost all encroach on one another.
Active fault lines run throughout the small Jewish state due to the active tectonic structure of the Dead Sea Rift that runs the full length of Israel.
According to the Risk Management Solutions' (RMS) Israel Earthquake Model, the Jordan Valley Fault in the north of the country "has a high probability of generating a major earthquake."
The RMS believes that a large earthquake there "could create damaging ground motions in every major population center, all located within 70 km of the rift."
"Research suggests," says the RMS website, "that the Jordan Valley Fault generates magnitude 7 or larger earthquakes every 1000 years. The last major event on this segment occurred in 1033, increasing the current probability of a major earthquake."
The possibility for major disaster in a future earthquake was brought home to Israelis several months ago in a state commissioned report on building safety in Israel.
In colorful language the report, set up to investigate the May 2001 collapse of a Jerusalem wedding hall, described how "the poisoned goblet of flaws that the construction industry is drowning in, is overflowing."
According to The Jerusalem Post at the time, the report found "that the entire system of construction in Israel is flawed to its core, and recommends sweeping changes in the industry…"
Despite the gravity of their findings, however, the panel that drew up the document said it doubted the government would take the matter seriously enough to implement its recommendations.
Seismologists say there are earthquakes taking place all the time in the Rift Valley, but most of them are too mild to be felt by man. They do, however, indicate the massive level of instability that exists.
Israel has a long documented record of destructive quakes dating back to 31 BC.
On July 11, 1927, a 6.2 magnitude temblor killed more than 300 people and damaged upward of 1000 buildings in Jericho, Nablus, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Tiberias, Lod and Ramla.
The last major earthquake to affect Israel was in 1995 and had its center deep under the Red Sea, about 70 km south of Eilat and caused only very minor structural damage.
It is estimated the worst-case scenario of the next major quake would cause Israel over $30 billion in economic damages and an unknown number of casualties.
The Hebrew prophet Zechariah foretells a final, cataclysmic earthquake when the Messiah comes to Jerusalem, an event that will split the Mount of Olives in two, from east to west, creating an enormous valley.
The book of Revelation speaks of a coming earthquake such as "had not occurred since men were on the earth."