Is it time to invest in emergency programs?
Photo: Shalom Bar-Tal
Israeli nuclear reactor
Photo: Shalom Bar-Tal

Nuclear threat: Are we ready?

Special project: Ynet questions Home Front Command, Health and Education ministries: No one is really preparing for the possibility that Israel could face a nuclear attack. There are no plans, no emergency scenarios – and everyone is waiting for instructions from the Defense Ministry. Meanwhile, only five hospitals are prepared to deal with the Iranian threat

Are we ready for a Cold War? This question continues to reverberate in Ynet's special project on the issue of the Iranian nuclearthreat. The subject carries many questions – political, economic, and human.


Should Israel prepare its citizens for a "cold war" situation or it is better to wait, relax, and trust the international community? Is it time to invest in emergency programs, in case of a real attack? Or, perhaps we all prefer burying our heads in the sand and trust that "It's going to be fine?”


The bad news is that civil organizations in Israel are not prepared in any way to handle the scenario of a nuclear threat by the Iranians. Moreover, the IDF's Home Front Command that is supposed to spearhead preparation in Israel for such a horrific scenario has no directives for preparedness.


This is the same Home Front Command that in the past two Gulf wars established an intricate information system, distributed gas masks, syringes, and what not.


Education Ministry awaits instructions from Ministry of Defense


The health system was not required to provide an emergency plan in case of a nuclear attack. It is ready to handle, however, more conventional scenarios of an accident in a nuclear facility, a traffic accident that may involve a truck carrying radioactive material, or the use of a "dirty bomb" made of mainly standard explosives and a small quantity of nuclear matter.


It is the responsibility of the Defense Ministry to assert these scenarios, and it didn't direct the other ministries to prepare for such event. For example, the Education Ministry hardly deals with the matter. Is it possible that our kids will grow with a "cold war" in their future? The Education Ministry awaits instructions from the Ministry of Defense. Schools have no programs to educate students on the nuclear threat.


The Health Ministry acknowledges the problem. Haim Rafaelovsky, a paramedic and a crisis expert said: "The health system asks to always be in the forefront."


"We hold discussions about possible scenarios – and we ask the defense establishment for directions, also on the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat," he said.


Some think that this stage is too early for preparations. Dr. Leon Polls, an advisor in the emergency deployment field and deputy director the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, stressed during his conversation with Ynet that "We are not preparing, medically speaking, for a non-existent threat. An Iranian nuclear bomb is not in sight at the moment, a will not be in the next two years".


The health system is fashioned to treat three types of injuries in case of a nuclear event:


  • Trauma as result of third degree burns and shockwave injuries.

  • Radiation injuries that suppress bone marrow.
  • Long term genetic damage, like cancer, cataract, chronic lung disease, and prenatal, to name a few.


However, the system is ready to handle a large number of trauma victims and a small number of radiation victims - it is not prepared to handle a nuclear attack. "Preparing for a nuclear attack is a totally different opera" said Dr. Polls. "The type of injuries and the extent of the damage will be much more severe. Hospitals could suffer system and infrastructure damages as well"


Rafaelovsky said he believes there is a place for improvement, but additional budget is needed. "It's a matter of policy where to invest the money. The health system believes that there are inexpensive steps. You could train hospital staff to deal with a nuclear threat. Today there are only five hospitals that are prepared for this type of event."


At least the health system in Israel is voicing its opinion, which his more than can be said about the education system.


Moran Zelikovich and Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 05.10.06, 14:05
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