Earthquake preparedness in Israel

I used our new CD-ROM, The Seven Churches of Revelation – Walking among the Lampstands, to teach part of a course on The Archaeology of the New Testament yesterday.

Having read this article in Arutz Sheva on Israel’s earthquake preparedness, a few hours earlier, the promise to the overcomers in Philadelphia came home with more force than usual. It quotes from the State Comptrollers’s report this month, which paints a bleak scenario, expecting a 7.5 quake to kill 16,000 people and leave 377,000 homeless. Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ wrote that:

“Most earthquake experts feel that the eventuality of an earthquake in Israel that is liable to exact thousands of victims and cause significant damage to property and buildings is almost certain, and that such a quake will definitely come sooner or later…”

“A quake of 7.5 on the Richter scale in northern Israel is expected to cause 16,000 deaths, 6,000 seriously injured, 83,000 lightly injured, 377,000 evacuated from their homes…

“Though it is vital that hospitals continue to operate after an earthquake, many northern hospital buildings are very old and not built according to contemporary standards. A Health Ministry survey found that most of them are liable to collapse during an earthquake.”

The frequency of earthquakes in the volcanic area around Philadelphia was such that it was called Catacecaumene, the “Burnt Land". Photo: © Leen Ritmeyer

Part of the promise to believers in the sixth of the Seven Churches to receive a letter from Jesus Christ was : “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more” (Revelation 3.12).

As we read in the CD captions, temples in Asia in antiquity were always supported by pillars, making them the safest structures in the city. This message, therefore, would have resonated deeply with people living in this notoriously earthquake-prone area. In terms of earthquake preparedness, it is fascinating to read Pliny’s account of the construction of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus (the first of the Seven Churches):

“It was built on marshy soil so that it might not be subject to earthquakes or be threatened by subsidences. On the other hand, to ensure that the foundations of so massive a building would not be laid on shifting, unstable ground, they were underpinned with a layer of closely trodden charcoal, and then with another of sheepskins with their fleeces unshorn” (Natural History 36.95).

Far-sighted planning indeed!

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