Israel Braces for First Rains

Rains and local thunderstorms expected throughout Israel, amid fears of water contamination and electrical malfunctions.

Shlomo Pyotrkovsky,

Rain in Jerusalem (file)
Rain in Jerusalem (file)
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Israel has been experiencing humid weather since a massive dust storm two weeks ago, but the pressure seems poised to break with rain throughout the country anticipated on Monday - one day before the fall officially begins.

The weather is to be partially cloudy, with rains expected in the northern and central regions of the country, accompanied by lone thunderstorms.

Temperatures are to significantly drop during the day, with the rains eventually running their course and petering out in the afternoon, and the night bringing with it continued cloudy weather.

The country is preparing for the rains, which will be the first of the year for most locations.

While rare heat lightning was spotted in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and several other locations last Wednesday, the highly unusual phenomenon for Israel proved even more rare in that in Jerusalem it only heralded some local rain, but no massive thunderstorms clearing out the weather system.

Ahead of the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast that begins on Tuesday night, the weather tomorrow is to be partially cloudy and comfortable, with a slight renewed rise in temperatures.

On the day of the fast itself on Wednesday, the weather will be comfortable with an additional slight rise in temperatures to slightly above averages for the season. The comfortable weather is to continue on Thursday with a slight drop in temperatures, although they will remain just above averages.

Contamination danger?

The Zalul environmental NGO on Sunday contacted regional authorities in the coastal region on Sunday to check up on their rain preparations.

Members of the NGO explained that the major concern is that waste that has piled up in drainage channels will be washed into the sea and cause a contamination of the waters, posing a potential health risk to the public.

"The first rain in the urban areas creates a phenomenon called 'first flush': it drags into rivers and the sea a lot of contamination that gathered on the streets throughout the summer through gutters and city drain channels," explained the NGO, noting the contaminants can include gasoline, oils and heavy metals.

Zalul also contacted on the Ministry of the Environment to clarify their preparations and ask why a warning has not been issued to bathers about the potential danger of contamination.

"In order to prevent the contamination and the damage to the environment and the health of the public, the authorities have the responsibility to clean drainage channels in advance," explained the NGO.

The Israel Electric Company (IEC) is also gearing up for the rains, preparing for possible malfunctions.

"Due to the dust and heavy haze that visited Israel in recent days, the first rain is expected to cause local malfunctions at a higher rate than normal," warned IEC in a statement. It added that it has been preparing in advance for the rain, and has established special response teams.

If the rain washes the residual dust and sand in the air from the dust storm to the ground, it is expected that it may bring a boon to the local agriculture.

The timing has not been lost on some, who point out that the potential benefit to the crops comes right at the Jewish new year at the end of the shemittah year, which is the agricultural sabbatical year in Jewish law. The Torah teaches that if Jews observe the shemittah year - as many farmers did this past year for the first time - Israel will be blessed with agricultural bounty.