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Is Israel Feeling End-Time Tremors?

February 5, 2008
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Though none of the four caused any reported damage or casualties in Israel, the public took notice. Newspapers were interviewing experts and agencies for their analysis. Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical service (EMS) and Red Cross Society, said they received increased interest in their earthquake safety course. The thought running through people’s minds was, “Do four earthquakes in 13 days mean something bigger is coming?”

According to some experts, the answer is it’s hard to tell. Dr. Rami Hofstetter, head of the Seismology Division at the Geophysical Institute of Israel, and Dr. Shmulik Marco, a Tel Aviv University professor in the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, both said the four felt quakes in such close succession is unusual, at least in the last 10 years. This is true even for a region that the Israel Seismic Network recorded as having at least 20 felt and non-felt earthquakes between September 4 and December 2, 2007. Marco qualified his comment by saying that 10 years is “nothing” when considering geological time, and statistically, Marco thought the two-week stretch “looks very normal.”

It is not best to use the short time frame involved to make big-scale predictions. In comparing years, Hofstetter thought 2007 was “pretty normal” when compared to previous years. “You should not look into a period of two weeks. You should look into a much longer period. If you do an extrapolation of what happened in two weeks, you are going to miscalculate,” said Hofstetter. Marco said sometimes small earthquakes occur before a larger one, but sometimes larger ones come after a period of quiet, making the last four smaller ones of no use in predicting big quakes. As Hofstetter said, “Earthquakes occur whenever they want, not when you want.”

Despite the inability to determine what the exact future holds for the region, the two experts bore the same ill tidings: The region can expect another strong one. Another expert on the region, the Bible, agrees.

Biblical Predictions

In 1927 an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale hit Israel. Photo courtesy The American Colony Hotel The modern State of Israel sits on two major fault lines, one of which is the Dead Sea Fault. It is not surprising, then, that biblical prophecy mentions earthquakes on numerous occasions. One of the largest of these prophetic tremors is described in Ezekiel 38. After announcing the plot of Prince Gog of the land of Magog and his allied armies to plunder the nation of Israel, God outlines His plan to protect His people. Part of that defense is a shaking on a scale the world has never seen.

“‘And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘that My fury will show in My face. For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: “Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground”’”(Ezek. 38:18–20, emphasis added).

Yeshua (Jesus), in His end-time prophecies in the latter portion of each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), also mentions earthquakes as leading up to history’s conclusion. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:6–8, emphasis added).

Possibly the most expected earthquake happens when the Messiah comes. “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south” (Zech. 14:3–4). Earthquakes also are mentioned in five different passages in the book of Revelation chapters 6–16. One of those quakes brings to mind the Ezekiel prophecy when it calls it a great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth(16:18).

Preparing for the Inevitable

Just counting earthquakes emanating from the area of the Dead Sea Fault that lies between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, Marco said major quakes hit the region in 31 BC, AD 363, 749, and 1033.“You get a recurrence interval of about 350–400 years,” said Marco. “And then since 1033, it’s been quiet, and this is why we are worried.” Marco estimates a quake in the order of a magnitude 7.0 could come out of that section of the fault. The fault section north of the Sea of Galilee has had earthquakes in recent years, making it less worrisome, but its potential is impressive. On May 20, 1202, an earthquake originating there was felt in Sicily and Istanbul, collapsed houses in Cyprus, and tore apart a crusader fortress located in Israel on the fault line. After 500 years, another large one emanated from there. This section has had quakes of the order of 7.0 to 7.4 in magnitude.

Hofstetter said they are unsure of the maximum strength for an earthquake in the region, but they expect it could be hit with perhaps a magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale. Chaim Rafalowski, emergency management director for Magen David Adom, said one seismological study estimated around 90,000 people injured and 16,000 dead could result from an earthquake in the Jordan Valley. Looking at dollar figures, according to a model done by Risk Management Solutions, as seen on their Web site, a worst-case scenario of a 7.5 quake in the Jordan Valley area could result in more than US $30 billion in economic damage.

Considering its seismic activity, the future looks bleak for the region. But for a nation that has had to consistently improve the art of defending itself, Israel has some answers. A key to preparing for earthquakes is construction stability. So Israel developed a building code similar to the one in California, home of the infamous San Andreas Fault. According to Marco, building designs must withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8.0. Only buildings built after 1975 fall under the code, however. Marco said the Israeli government’s Earthquake Preparedness Steering Committee that was formed after the devastating earthquakes in Turkey in 1999, estimated a few years ago that Israel still had about 100,000 buildings that need to be retrofitted, with Marco thinking only a small percentage of these have been taken care of. But, there are plans to retrofit buildings. New construction helps fix the problem by simply demolishing old buildings and replacing them. Still, another factor is whether the better building code is being kept all the time.

Magen David Adom also has a plan for a disastrous earthquake scenario. Realizing the situation will “overwhelm” their capacity. Rafalowski said the EMS group plans to use volunteers already in the communities and local treatment areas, such as safe parking lots, to treat the minor injuries. The critical ones will be transported to a hospital. Hofstetter said that Israel is more prepared than in 2000, although a lot of work still needs to be done, and more can always be done.

So while people were surprised to hear rattling glass and see shaking china during the stretch of four small earthquakes during the last two months of 2007, the experts and the Bible say—and Israel is expecting—that the worst is yet to come. Predicting exactly when it will come is about as precise as predicting the next car accident, according to Marco. Nonetheless, says Marco, “This just means that we have to be ready for it at anytime.”

How to Stay Earthquake-safe

  1. Prepare ahead of time
    Have a home fire extinguisher, take an earthquake safety program, and know where the safer areas of your home are.
  2. Move to a safe environment
    Once in an earthquake, if you are in a one-story building, leave the building. Otherwise, if you can reach a bomb shelter or get under a concrete staircase quickly enough, do so. If that is not possible, get under a large piece of furniture that can prevent a collapsing ceiling from falling on your head. Wait for the shaking to end.
  3. Reduce the risk of fires
    Once the earthquake tremors are gone, turn off the water, gas, and electricity to prevent fires.


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of The American Colony Hotel

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