The series of earthquakes that have struck northern Israel in recent days continues to unsettle citizens, but among experts there are those who claim that this is not an indication of a major earthquake. Nevertheless, experts suggest, since we cannot predict when the next big earthquake will strike, we have to be prepared.
The last significant earthquake was recorded Sunday around 4:30pm in the Kinneret area. The head of the seismology division at the Geophysical Institute, Dov Zakosky, noted that the quake measured 3.9 on the Richter scale, at a depth of 2.5 miles. The epicenter was about 5 miles northeast of Tiberias.
Four more tremors were reported in the last couple of days: a 3.0 tremor was reported shortly after 2pm on Sunday, two minor tremors were felt Sunday night (3.2 and 3.1), and a 3.3 earthquake was felt early Sunday at 12:42am, all in the Sea of Galilee area.
Dr. Avi Shapira, a seismologist and lecturer at Haifa University's Emergency Management Program, recalls that such tremors have been felt in the region before: In 2013 in the Sea of Galilee, in 2008 in southern Lebanon, and between 1990 and 1995 there was a series of earthquakes in the Gulf of Eilat.
"We are familiar with the activity of what is known as the Great Syria-African Rift…there is constant high pressure and high friction, so every now and then the pressure overcomes the friction and an earthquake occurs. This happens regularly throughout this rift, from Turkey to East Africa. "
'Chances are, nothing will happen'
According to Dr. Shapira, "there is no clear evidence suggesting that such a sequence of earthquakes necessarily leads to a massive earthquake. Statistically speaking, there are places around the world where probability increases. Chances are, nothing will happen, but you cannot rule out the possibility that it might."
For the time being, the expert added, we can prepare ourselves by practicing the instructions of the Home Front Command: staying, if possible, in open spaces or in a safe room (the door must be left open), exiting through the stairway, and more. In addition, Israeli residents should keep a copy of important documents—car licenses, lists of medications, ID's, etc.—on them.
"The instructions of the Home Front Command have been carefully prepared, and they are life saving, now is the time to go over the procedures, starting with the individual, the community, the neighborhood, the municipality and the units that need to intervene, whether it is the civilian rescue forces or the IDF," Dr. Shapira asserted.
"We are pretty sure that houses built according to the standard, certainly those built during the 1990's, will not collapse. Seventy to eighty percent of houses in Israel, even those that were built before the 1990's, are built according to the standard, so there may be damage, but houses will certainly not collapse," Dr. Shapira added.
According to Dr. Yariv Hamiel, Director of the Geological Hazards and Geological Engineering Division at the Geological Survey, what we are witnessing at the moment is a sequence of moderate earthquakes in the Kinneret area. "Our concern is that this sequence would last for a month with a tremor felt every few days ... We cannot predict when the next earthquake will strike, so we have to prepare ourselves."
Dr. Hamiel further notes that the Geological Survey is currently working on a nationwide alert system that will give a few seconds warning before an earthquake strikes.
In the meantime, the city of Tiberias opened a hotline for people suffering from anxiety as a result of the earthquakes. Those interested in assistance can contact the call center at 106.
Ahiya Raved, Inbar Tvizer, and Roi Rubinstein contributed to this story.