In light of the earthquake that ravaged Nepal and the efforts by Israel to help take control of the situation, it is prudent to discuss the risks that Jerusalem faces and the work that is being done to protect against those risks.
According to the World Health Organization, Jerusalem is situated in an area with a high seismic hazard. It is located ~25 km from the Dead Sea Transform fault system. This says nothing of seismic risk, however. Seismic risk refers to the probability that, in the event of an earthquake, catastrophic damage would occur.
According to a 1984 study by Wachs and Levitte, “although Jerusalem is often mentioned in connection with earthquakes, the resulting damage reported has always been slight.” They state that the 1927 Jericho earthquake – the most recent devastating earthquake in the region – did not greatly affect Jerusalem and that it was the area around the Mount of Olives that suffered most due to landslides. The reason for this is the softer nature of the bedrock on which the mountain stands. Upon expansion of the city in the 60s, 70s and 80s, however, more neighborhoods were constructed on bedrocks of Senonian chalk – not dissimilar from that of the Mount of Olives – and those areas have since been at greater risk of destruction in the event of a catastrophic seismic event.
These risks essentially went ignored until 2005 when the National Outline Plan, or TAMA 38, was introduced. The plan acknowledged the danger posed by buildings constructed before 1980 and offered a very attractive solution. Building residents could reinforce a building’s foundations, add elevators, improve infrastructure and increase the size of their apartments all while increasing the value of their homes and without having to pay taxes normally associated with projects of that scale.
The ease of approval of a TAMA 38 plan is a different story. According to the implementation report by the Minstry of the Interior, new TAMA 38 requests have been trickling in and approvals of said requests are even more limited. Even with approval, projects often take years to complete. The end of the report by the Ministry of the Interior states that there is “room for improvement.” That is an understatement.
It is clear that TAMA 38 is not the comprehensive solution it should be and there is a necessity for more programs that improve Jerusalem’s most at-risk structures.