Two 3.6-magnitude earthquakes struck Tiberias Sunday, just four hours apart. The Geophysical Institute of Israel said that the epicenter of the earthquakes was on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. The tremors were felt most strongly in Tiberias, Hazor, Safed and the village of Majar. Residents of the Golan reported that the second earthquake was felt there as well.
While no injuries or damage were reported as a result of the earthquakes, their proximity to two previous tremors that rattled the same area on Thursday and Friday, has sparked concern among residents of northern Israel.
"The tea cups on the table shook and the computer moved from side to side," said Madleine Sror, 47, an employee of the Tiberias Municipality. "My daughter, who works in a different part of the city called in a panic. I heard her frightened coworkers on the phone. Four hours later, there was another earthquake -- we thought we were imagining it, but we felt the movement and everyone started screaming, 'Did you feel it? Did you feel it?'"
"The chair, the table, the computer -- everything moved," said Michal Savti, who was also in Tiberias at the time of the earthquakes. "Everything that was on the table danced. I was speechless for five seconds. We felt the second earthquake less, but it was still stressful. Two earthquakes in four hours? What's going on here?"
Residents of the north are concerned about when the next earthquake will occur -- if at all. According to the Geophysical Institute of Israel, it is impossible to conclude that the past four earthquakes indicate a stronger earthquake will take place in the near future. "The sequence of earthquakes does not indicate anything about the future," said GII Director Dr. Uri Frieslander. "We can't rule out a stronger earthquake, but it is certainly possible that these small quakes will not lead to anything. Small quakes have preceded a strong earthquake in the past, but in the same vein, there were incidents in which that did not happen."
Following the earthquakes, Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved stated that "in Tiberias, there are thousands of homes that were built before 1980 that need reinforcement and are in danger of collapsing if and when a strong earthquake hits Tiberias. Professional sources believe that, if there is an earthquake that is 7.5 [magnitude] on the Richter scale, 16,000 people will die as a result in Tiberias, Beit She'an and Safed."
According to him, the government's Tama 38 scheme -- the national outline plan for the seismic strengthening of existing buildings -- is suitable for cities in central Israel, "but not in Tiberias or the cities in the periphery, where it is not worthwhile for contractors to build an extra floor on a building in exchange for reinforcing the structure's foundations. We demanded an alternative plan from the government and we haven't received one -- and in the meantime, Tiberias and other peripheral cities are at risk."
Following the twin earthquakes on Sunday, Homefront Defense Minister Gilad Erdan called a meeting to assess the situation, which was attended by all relevant officials for the emergency readiness of the home front in the event of an earthquake. Erdan's office stated that the meeting was meant to test the preparedness of the various bodies needed to deal with an earthquake and the potential subsequent emergency situation. At the end of the meeting, it was decided that "the current working assumption is that we must continue to follow the developments and to move forward with preparing the homefront for different scenarios."
In 2012, the Israel Defense Forces Homefront Command announced its readiness plan for earthquakes holding the "Turning Point 6" exercise to test the Israeli homefront's readiness for the scenario. Homefront Command instructions say that in the event of an earthquake, one should get to an open area. In recent years, the Homefront Command has tried to implement first-aid training to prepare civilians to administer first aid in the first hours of an earthquake.