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The Sea of Galilee has swelled since the storm
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, Jan 14, 2013.

I arrived in Israel last week at the tail end of what was the biggest rain and wind storm in Israeli history for decades.

I spent the first day on arrival surveying the damage to my apartment from the torrential rain and winds which left water seeping in under my windows, and caused damage to a wall due to the strong winds and the spaces between my window and outer wall. The cracks needed to be sealed immediately.

Getting handymen or contractors was no simple task, since they were all busy fixing everyone else's leaks and cracks. The storm was a great ego boost for insurance assessors, who have never been so popular in their lives.

For the first two days in the country the only people I spoke to were "shiputzniks"-handymen who came in to reseal my apartment in case the storm continued, while I made sure all of the towels were ready to be lined up near the windows in case more water came in. [For some reason, Israeli windows, no matter how expensive they are, never fully prevent water form large storms seeping in, and Israeli shiputzniks, no matter how expensive they are, can never fully be relied on to complete the job].

When the repairs were underway, I tried to connect to hotmail, to find out that they wouldn't let me in to my own account. I straightened that out later that night and fell asleep early knowing the shipputzniks would be back first thing Friday a.m.

Just before my shiputzniks left on a Friday morning, I noticed that I had lost my internet connection, and then I noticed that I also had no working telephone line or television. To make matters worse, I couldn't use my cell phone since it would take several hours for it to charge. By the time I used my shiputznik's cell phone to get through to my service provider, Hot , they told me it was too late for them to send anyone down since Friday is a short work day.[especially short for me !]

I spent all day Friday and Saturday completely unconnected to any communications system. [As an aside, I have yet to figure out why every time I arrive in the country my Hot service goes out it always happens on a Friday]. On Saturday night, after Shabbat was out I asked my neighbors, French Jews who immigrated to Israel several years ago, to use their computer so I could check my email. Unfortunately, the internet was so slow I couldn’t get through. I had forgotten that this often happens after Shabbat since as soon as Shabbat is out the whole country gets on line and the system is overloaded.

I spent all day Monday of this week waiting for the HOT technician to arrive. I was all geared up ready to start to write until I saw a notice plastered on the door of my building advising that Tuesday to Thursday of this week there would be periods of no water in my building since there would be repairs made to a water pipe.

No water. Getting through that should be a piece of cake when compared to no internet and phone for three days [Heck, if things go really well tomorrow, I may even find out that my fridge and stove aren't working! They’re the only things left to go wrong]

But,there are are two positive effects of Mother Nature's storm.

After several years of drought, the heavy rains have helped fill the Sea of Galilee, the country's largest freshwater reservoir. The country's water shortage was bad enough that a hike in water prices recently went in effect. The Sea of Galilee has now swelled to its highest point since 1994, the Times of Israel has reported.

The second "windfall" from the storm is the effect that it has had on Hamas tunnels in Gaza.
Ma'an News reported that the many of tunnels under Gaza's border with Egypt have flooded or collapsed due to the torrential rain storm.
These tunnels have been mainly used by Hamas, and Palestinian militant organizations and gangs primarily to smuggle illegal arms (e.g. rockets and mortars). Hamas takes a a "tax" from the smugglers enabling them to fund the arms trade.
The disruption and closing of the tunnels is something that the IDF was hoping to achieve in its latest operation Pillar of Defense. But as soon as the cease fire was put into effect, there were reports that the tunnels were back in operation. This was the case even though Egyptian President Morsi, [like Mubarak before him] who is to supervise the cease fire, has made commitments to prevent the reactivation of weapons smuggling.
In other words, it appears that this past week Mother Nature has stepped in to help the IDF accomplish what it couldn't do: shut down the tunnel trade.


While writing this article I just received my first phone call since getting my land line back, one which is unlike any other phone call I have ever received. It wasn't any run of the mill solicitation. It was an electronic Hebrew message from some sort of religious call centre promoting the powers of Rabbi Ba'al Ha'ness asking me [ I think] if I wanted to come pray at his tomb in Tiberius. For those who don't know, which may be a vast majority of my readers, Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNes (Rabbi Meir "the miracle maker") was a Jewish sage who lived in the time of the Mishna. He was considered one of the greatest of the Tannaim of the third generation (139-163).  Although Rabbi Meir died outside of the Land of Israel he was brought to Tiberius and buried there in a standing position near the Sea of Galilee (now swelling since the storm). It is said that he asked to be buried this way so when the  Mashiach comess, Rabbi Meir would be spared the trouble of arising from his grave.  Every year, thousands of Jews make pilgrimage to Rabbi Meir's grave to receive blessings in Tiberius for health and success.

The electronic phone message speaking in my ear was from a woman who told me she  had cancer and had recovered after she had prayed at Rabbi Ba'al Hanes's grave.

In order to continue hearing more, I had to press one, which I did (I was very curious to see what would come next).

But, my luck, when I pressed one I just got a busy signal !!!

The truth is that I would tell Rabbi B'al Haness that right now my prayer is a modest one: please ensure that my telephone line and internet keep working.

p.s. Now I did mean to give an update on the Israeli election campaign, which I promise is coming soon. In fact, I even meant to watch the election update on the news on television last night, but instead was at friends and ended up watching the Israeli version of Master Chef. It was really interesting because of the profiles of the people whose cooking talents it features: an Arab Israeli woman (cooking beef wellington) , a Morrocan Jewish woman, and a tall blonde German man who fell in love with a Jewish woman. Since they have both become religious, he only cooks kosher food.  Where else in the world would I ever see a cooking show like that !
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.