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Earthquakes are Israel’s biggest security threat, Jackie Levy told the ‘Post.’

There are 80,000 buildings in Israel that are in danger of collapsing in the face of a serious earthquake in Israel, Deputy Minister of Housing and Construction Jackie Levy told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Levy issued a statement on the urgency of the issue, after northern Israel experienced dozens of earthquakes over the past few days.

Levy says he has been fighting for greater action on this issue for several years, and that while his ministry had budgeted NIS 60 million every year for the last three years to reinforce buildings, that is only “a drop in the ocean.”

“This needs a massive systemic solution – a national plan,” he said, noting that his ministry has already put together a five-year plan which he hopes will be approved soon.

The plan, which his ministry put together with the Finance Ministry, requires a budget of NIS 250 million every year for five years – which will deal only with the homes of those who live on the Great Rift Valley, the highest risk zone.

In addition, the remaining homes of those who are in lower-risk areas will also need to be reinforced.

All buildings constructed before 1984 were not built according to standards which began to be enforced that year for earthquake durability.

“There are many old structures that will simply collapse like a tower of cards during an earthquake,” Levy said.

“On every platform, I have demanded that the Israeli government open its eyes and internalize that this earthquake is a ticking time bomb, and it must invest considerable resources in order to prevent the disaster.”

“The government must stop trembling from the large expenditure and ascend one step after another on the budget ladder, because the quakes are going up the Richter scale at a dizzying pace,” Levy stated.

Levy believes that the current series of earthquakes will spur decision makers into action. “Everyone agrees [that a big earthquake] will come, and it is only a matter of when,” Levy warned. “This is Israel’s biggest security threat. And so I call on everyone to understand that we cannot wait.

An earthquake will not come with a government resolution, it will surprise everyone – and for this barrel of explosives, we are not prepared.”

He added that rather than getting to a situation where the country remembers a huge failure, “we must start to deal with it today in order to prevent the suffering of tomorrow.”

The Defense Ministry, along with the security establishment and the National Emergency Authority, is set to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss this issue.Bottom of Form

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Israel’s Finance Ministry has declared war on housing investors, but the simple fact is that investing has become less worthwhile.

After many years during which investors accounted for a high proportion of housing purchases, recent surveys by the Ministry of Finance chief economist found that the number of people buying housing for investment is falling every month, as is their proportion among home buyers. The figures show that not only are investors buying fewer housing units; they are also selling more housing units.

The Ministry of Finance explains that the change in the buying and selling habits of real estate investors is a result of the measures taken by the ministry to cool off the market, such as eliminating the exemption from betterment tax, increasing purchase tax for housing investors, the law imposing a tax on owners of a third housing unit, and the buyer fixed price plan. According to an analysis by Migdal Capital Markets, the government’s measures are not necessarily what cooled the market off; the main factor was that after many years, returns on housing units are not what they once were.

According to data compiled by Migdal Capital Markets, based on Central Bureau of Statistics figures, the viability of buying a housing unit for investment has declined steadily over the past two years, primarily due to the turnaround in the gap between the return from rent and the interest rate.

In order to calculate the return on a housing unit, an index has been devised that calculates the ratio of the monthly rent, multiplied by 12 months, and the average housing unit price. Migdal admit that “this framework obviously has many disadvantages: on the one hand, an increase in housing prices cannot be predicted, while on the other hand, additional rent costs in leasing a housing unit, such as renovations and making over the housing unit, were not taken into account; nevertheless,
making over the housing unit, were not taken into account; nevertheless, it gives an indication of the prevailing trends.”

The rates of return calculated from the first quarter of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2016 show that while the average return in the first quarter of 2015 was 3.28%, the return declined in the succeeding quarters, reaching 2.99% in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The picture is consistent in all districts: a decline varying from 0.35% during the time period in the northern suburbs of Haifa (from 3.03% to 2.68%) to 0.12% in Haifa itself (from 3.2% to 3.08%).

Interest rate trends

At the same time, the Migdal Capital Markets economic department also examined the trends in the average interest rate on unlinked shekel mortgages versus the “return on a housing unit,” “in order to see whether such a deal will be worthwhile for an investor who assumes that housing prices will remain unchanged, and whose cost of capital is the average mortgage interest rate.”
This examination used the average mortgage interest rate and the average interest rate on 5-10-year mortgages. The figures show that while the return from rent declined over the past two years, financing costs rose substantially during the same period. The average mortgage interest rate in the first quarter of 2015 was 2.26%, while by the fourth quarter of 2016, two years later, it had risen to 3.37%.

At the same time, the interest rate on 5-10-year mortgages also rose during this period, from 2.39% at the beginning of 2015 to 3.77% at the end of 2016. This substantial rise has made the purchase of housing more expensive, and has reduced an investor’s return.

Highest return: small apartments in the north

Migdal Capital Markets also examined the return for various housing units all over Israel, based on Central Bureau of Statistics figures, in the fourth quarter of 2016, and revealed major differences between them. As expected, the return is higher in outlying areas, although the risk of being expected, the return is higher in outlying areas, although the risk of being left with an unoccupied housing unit is also greater.

According to the figures, the highest return obtainable was 4.49% for 1.52-room apartments in the northern district, followed by 4.34% for 1.5-2room apartments in the northern Haifa suburbs and 4.07% for 1.5-2-room apartments in the southern district.

At the bottom of the table were 3.5-4-room apartments in the Tel Aviv district with a 2.25%

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Israeli Earthquake – Not if, But When?

The country is severely ill­prepared. You can help change that.  

Last week on Nov. 2, 16, The Israel National Emergency Committee testified before the Knesset’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee. If there would be a severe earthquake in Israel today (something experts predict will occur in near future, as every 90 years or so, Israel experiences severe quakes, the last one devastating Tiberias and other Northern Israeli cities), approximately 7000 people would be killed, 8600 severely wounded, 170,000 left homeless, and 9500 people would be trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The  Head  of  the  Security  and  Foreign  Affairs Committee,  M.K.  Avi  Dichter,  responded, shocked,  “This  amount  of  dead  and  of  people trapped who can’t speak, means 100,000 Israelis waiting  to  know  what  will  come  of  their  loved ones.  The  nation  of  Israel  will  not  be  able  to sustain this. You need to decide who will be called upon to give answers.”

How true this sad state of affairs is when it comes to Israel taking basic steps now, that could help tremendously when an earthquake hits Israel G­d forbid, or if many buildings should collapse due to missile  and  rocket  attacks.  We  have  enjoyed many miracles in recent wars. One must not rely on  miracles.  The  Hamas,  Hizbullah  and  who knows who else have hundreds of thousands of missiles and rockets aimed at Tel Aviv and other major Israeli centers. If Israel is hesitant to take the necessary steps to distance the threats emanating from Lebanon and Gaza, One would at least hope that Israel and Jews world­wide would be eager to support the efforts of such groups as the IDU – Israel Dog Unit, training and preparing dogs and handlers to deal with such a scenario where we would need to find and extricate people from under collapsed buildings as quickly as we can, while they may still be holding on to life.

I am aware of the efforts taken by the army and the fire department to respond to an earthquake. It is well known that dogs can and will play a central role in detecting where live people may be trapped under the rubble as well as G­d forbid where the scent of dead bodies are located. The IDF has less than 2 dozen such dogs. Dozens if not hundreds more will be needed.

There is one civilian organization known as YAKAL ­ the Israel Dog Unit that is trying its best to ready specially trained dogs and personnel to respond with these dogs to such an emergency. The Israel Dog Unit (IDU) is working around the clock in this regard and also is involved in searching daily for missing people in Israel as well as breeding, training and deploying security dogs in Judea, Samaria and throughout the land of Israel.

The unit is in great need of funds to maintain operations and training ­ to prepare dogs and volunteer handlers in the proper use of the dogs. G­d forbid, if and when the earthquake erupts; it will be too late to start to finance the type of massive operation that is needed. NOW IS THE TIME TO READY VEHICLES, DOGS, and EQUIPMENT THAT CAN AND WILL EFFECTIVELY RESPOND AND SAVE MANY LIVES IN ISRAEL, G­d willing. Incidentally, buildings could G­d forbid collapse due to missile and rocket attacks or due to gas explosions in buildings as well. We all saw how illequipped Israel was to respond to the recent collapse of the parking lot in Ramat Gan. We also learned firsthand, while searching for the three missing boys who were kidnapped, killed and buried in Beit Kahil, two years ago, just how needed our dogs were in the search. We learn each and every day just how needed our dogs are in the search for missing people in Israel. In many of these cases we are the only ones searching in the depth of the wilderness for missing people.

OUR UNIT IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF FUNDS TO CONTINUE TO OPERATE AND TO GROW TO MEET THE GREAT CHALLENGES THAT THREATEN ISRAEL TODAY. I am screaming and warning about measures that can be taken now to prevent terror attacks with the use of our dogs, to find missing people with dogs and to rescue people from under collapsed buildings, G­d forbid the need should arise. I seek not to say, “I told you so,” but rather to take basic measures today. That could only be done with significant financial support. We are not sufficiently getting through to the people who could make a significant difference. We are struggling daily to keep the unit afloat and to be able to respond to emergencies. It is not easy.

Please contribute generously to this holy life­ saving mission. If not you, then who will step up to the plate? I do not enjoy begging. However, I tell you with great certainty that if our unit is forced to shut down that there is no other group out there with the ability to respond in any significant manner with the use of specially trained canines to a scenario where many buildings collapse. I can also tell you with certainty that there exists no other group that will do what we do in leading the searches for the people who go missing each and every day in Israel. I can also tell you with certainty that there exists no other group in Israel that deploys security dogs with security personnel in towns across Israel or to families who live on the border of vulnerable towns and “settlements”.

We have been using specially trained security and SAR dogs to save lives in Israel for the past 16 years with great success,  rescuing  missing  people,  preventing  many terrorist attacks, and protecting places such as Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Itamar, Yitzhar, Kiryat Arba, Mitzpeh Yair, Gush Etzyon, Elaazar, Tapuach, Bet El, Ofra, Shilo bloc,  Haifa,  Tzefat  Forest,  Kibbutz  Lavie,  Shedmot Mechola, Givaat Gal, Efrat, City of David, Nerya, Nachliel,  Maaleh Shomron, Sde Bar­ Nokdim, Kochav Hashachar, Ade Ad, Migdalim, Jericho bloc, Lebanon border, Tel Aviv, Haifa,  Leshem,  Jerusalem,  Kfar  Hassidim,  Richeilim, Migdal HaEmek, Givaot Itamar, Beth Shemesh, Moshav Bekoa, Kedumim, Mitzpe Avichai, Ramat Beth Shemesh, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Ata, Ariel, Aminadav, Nachal Gerar – Negev, Hebron, Tapuach West, Netanya, Malachei Hasharet, Givaat Asaf,  Mitspe Yericho, Eli, Ofra, Karmei Tzur, Maale Michmas, Mitzpe Donny, Kiryat Ono and more.

We  have  recommendations  on  file  from  the  last  three heads of the Shomron Council, The Commissioner of the Fire Dept., head of Shomron police search and rescue, Chief of Kiryat Gat Police, Chief of Netivot Police, Chief of Haifa police, Rabbi Dov Lior ­ Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Head of the Judea Samaria Rabbinic Committee, Rabbi Chai ­ Chief Rabbi of Itamar, Brig. General Knafo – former Machat Shomron, Shlomo Anavi ­ Chief of Security of Elaazar, Meir Hazani ­ Chief of Security Kedumim, Daniella Weiss, Mayor of Kedumim, Former Chief of Security of the Shomron, and many, many more.

Please make a generous contribution to “Maginei Eretz LMaan Hazulat, POBox 6592 Jerusalem Israel, 91060

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99% of old buildings in Israel not earthquake safe

Despite legislation and incentives, the vast majority of structures in Israel have not undergone any fortification in  reparation, leaving them extremely vulnerable to earthquakes; as Israel is on the Great Rift Valley, a large part of its periphery is particularly at  isk, especially in lower income areas.

Ofer Petersburg

The earthquake in Italy on Saturday has caused the deaths of hundreds of people and according to experts, Israel is due to experience a similar  arthquake itself. Local data on structure fortification, however, shows that Israel as a whole is woefully unprepared for such a scenario, particularly buildings that have not recently been fortified, but also some of those that have. A  second problem is that almost no buildings in the country’s periphery have been fortified at all.

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Eleven years after the Tama 38 bill aimed at fortifying older buildings was voted into law, only three percent of the public housing structures built before  980 have been strengthened. Breaking down the data, this means that only 5,000 apartments in 430  buildings have been fortified, out of the 810,000 apartments and 120,000 buildings that are in need of such construction work— Less than one percent of all the apartments due for fortification. 15,000 are currently being renovated in accordance to Tama 38, and 30,000 more have submitted a request to begin the process.

A building struck by the recent earthquake in Italy (Photo: AFP)

Approximately half of all the older buildings in Israel are three stories high or more, and many of them would completely collapse in the event of an  arthquake, due to proximity to the Great Rift Valley that runs from Africa to Syria. Tiberias, Safed, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an and Eilat are all quite close to this potential earthquake focal point.

According to the latest State Comptroller report, until 2013 only 36 apartments were fortified in periphery areas more likely to suffer greater damage in the event of an earthquake. Most of these apartments were not reinforced due to it not being a very good financial investment, since the relatively lower price for real estate in the periphery makes it less lucrative for developers and renovators to offer to carry out such projects. This means that those who can afford to live in more expensive buildings have a better chance of surviving an earthquake.

Real estate company Madlan’s Research and Strategy Deputy CEO Raveh Eytan voiced his concern over the slow progress of building reinforcement in Israel.

A building struck by the recent earthquake in Italy (Photo: AP)

“Even if we included all the Tama 38 fortification plans, as well as plans to demolish and rebuild current structures, they would all amount to only five Percent of all the older apartments,” he said. Eytan estimated the damage that could be caused by such an earthquake as “unbelievable.”

The Government Steering Committee has set in motion a nation­wide disaster scenario of a strong earthquake reaching 7.5 on the Richter Scale and centered around Beit She’an were to hit Israel. 16,000 people are estimated to die in such an event, 6,000 will be seriously injured, 377,000 will be cleared from their homes, 10,000 buildings will be destroyed and 20,00 will suffer severe damage.

Even buildings whose structures have been strengthened are not guaranteed to withstand an earthquake, since some of the companies carrying out Tama 38 are inexperienced in the fortification process.

A building struck by the recent earthquake in Italy (Photo: AP)

The chairperson for the Israel Engineers Association for Construction and Infrastructure, Danny Marian, has already repeatedly warned against this danger.

Business information company BDICode noted that since the Israeli government had first approved Tama 38 in 2005, many construction companies have begun offering their services, and that currently there are 900 companies that deal in Tama 38 and complete demolition and rebuilding projects. While some have gained the necessary experience, some companies are relatively new or lack the professional knowhow to do the job responsibly.

The Israel Engineers Association for Construction and Infrastructure sent a letter to the government last week, stating, “It is only a matter of time until the earth will shake in Israel, as well.”

A building struck by the recent earthquake in Italy (Photo: Yaarit Rahamim)

  The association also came out against last month’s Housing Cabinet’s decision to remove the requirement to fortify any public housing structure built before 1980.

It is wrong on a professional level and goes against former government decisions to protect the general population during states of emergency,” the letter read.

Most Tama 38 projects are currently taking place in the center of Israel. About 60 percent of them are located in the larger cities of Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Haifa, Herzliya, Ra’anana, Ashdod and Rishon Lezion. Five of these cities are in the center of Israel, while most of the projects taking place in Haifa are located in the pricey Carmel Mountaintop neighborhoods.

Other cities, such as the northern city of Safed, have not seen any fortification projects.

A building struck by the recent earthquake in Italy (Photo: Reuters)

Safed mayor Ilan Shohat was critical of this imbalance in funding. “Once again, the center of Israel comes out on top. The Tama 38 format is incompatible with the very cities and settlements that need it. I’m sure we’ll get the necessary budgets after the next earthquake, but by then there won’t be anyone left to use them,” he said.

Perhaps in response to this rather dismal forecast, earlier in August a new agreement was signed between the Construction and Housing Ministry and state­owned housing company Amidar, for Amidar to carry out many Tama 38 projects in the periphery.

Among other points in the agreement, Amidar has committed to fortify or rebuild 3,500 existing housing units, 2/3 of which will be used as public housing.

BDICode President Roni Brik had an alarming warning of his own for the Israeli government: “The government has neglected to fortify buildings, and the result is going to be a catastrophe with the potential to kill thousands of people and a damage scope that the government won’t be unequipped to handle. For years, we’ve been warning the government that if it does not start with drastic measures to promote Tama 38 and demolition and rebuilding projects, they will in essence be abandoning most of the Israelis living in older buildings to their fate. It is unfathomable that after more than a decade of failed policies laid down by Israeli governments, they still cannot see what’s coming. What are they waiting for, for people to actually die?”

Four years ago, BDICode presented the government with a plan that it claimed would save lives in the periphery areas most at risk during an earthquake. The plan aimed to promote a “tax credit”—the likes of those accepted throughout the world—that would grant contractors credit points in exchange for their fortifying older buildings. Though the plan did not require any government funding, it was ignored, and its idea to help strengthen at­risk buildings was never implemented.

Association of Renovation Contractors in Israel Chairperson, Eran Siv, summed up the fears and  challenges in the current situation: “An earthquake like the one in Italy could happen at any moment here in Israel, causing great damage to older structures. Israel is filled with ancient structures that were built hundreds of years ago without an agreed upon building standard. As we are now seeing in broadcasts from Italy, this kind of building can bring about serious damage.”