Fifth Victim of Winter Storms Laid to Rest

A military truck evacuates Israeli citizens through a flooded road in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya on a stormy winter day, Jan. 8.  (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Strong storms continued to challenge Israelis – and rescue workers – a day after winter storms claimed their fifth victim this winter. On Thursday, police rescued a driver who had driven into a flooded ditch and was stuck, with floodwaters rising around her. Police entered the ditch and removed the driver from the vehicle.

On Wednesday night, police rescued three children – one of them a toddler – from a cabin they were living in in the Baal Shem Tov Forest, south of Tzfas. Police were alerted by the father of the children that they were alone, and that floodwaters from heavy storms Wednesday were inundating the area. Police entered the forest on foot and located the cabin, removing the children, ages 16, four and two.

Meanwhile, the levayah for Moti Ben-Shabbat, the Nahariya resident who drowned as he tried to save a family whose vehicle was inundated by floodwaters in the city. The 38-year-old man rescued the family members and then returned to the vehicle to ensure that all the children had been removed – and he was then swept away by floodwaters. He was later found near the Nahariya Port in critical condition, with rescue teams unable to revive him.

Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz eulogized Ben-Shabbat, calling him “a Jewish hero. He did not run into battle or fight terrorists. He saw a family drowning in a stream and didn’t think twice, jumping in and rescuing them at the cost of his life. This is a classic example of mesirus nefesh.

Four other people have died in flooding-related incidents, among them Dean Shoshan and Steve Harari, who drowned in an elevator that was overcome by floodwaters as enormous amounts of rain fell on central Tel Aviv. The two were attempting to reach the underground garage of their apartment building in the Hatikvah neighborhood when the waters entered the elevator and trapped them. A third person was critically injured in the incident. The incident occurred after nearly 80 millimeters of heavy rain fell on the area in the space of just a few hours. The rain overwhelmed the drainage systems in the area, and water quickly gathered and rose in the garage.

Rain continued Thursday morning in most parts of the country. Speaking on Radio 103, Nahariya Mayor Ronen Marli called his town a “disaster zone. The center of town is destroyed, there is great damage. The state must intervene to help. The problem is not just Nahariya, the problem is with the entire range of towns that are at the bottom of the Galilee mountain range. The rain that has flooded us could have, with better planning, been saved and used for agriculture.”