Focus is the University of Haifa's English-language newspaper covering news and features about Israel's
"University of the North" Published 3-4 times a year, by the division of public affairs and Resource Development.


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WINTER 2004-2005


What If a Tsunami Hit? First Program of Its Kind in Israel Dealing with Mass Disaster

Early in the fall, a tornado was photographed off the coast of Nahariya on Israel’s northern coast.  Unlike some areas of the United States, it was an unusual phenomenon for Israel.  Would the authorities have known how to handle the situation in the aftermath of a natural disaster if the destructive funnel of wind had hit inland? 

More recently, an official of the Geographic Survey of Israel warned that the country’s coastal plain was at “slight risk” of being hit by a tsunami, the tidal wave generated by an earthquake under the sea.  Land dangers of earthquakes are, though, more of a possibility and did large-scale cause destruction in early 20th century Israel. There are those in the geographic community who warn that sooner or later both an earthquake and a tsunami will hit Israel at full force.  Prof. Yossi Mart of the Dept. of Geography states plainly that though no one in Israel knows exactly when or where, “we must be properly deployed and without delay."

Israeli authorities can now be better prepared if they take a new curriculum being offered through the Geography Department: Disaster Management.  A two-year Master’s degree program, it is the first of its kind in Israel. 

According to the program’s initiators, Prof. Arnon Soffer, holder of the Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy, and Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Arnon Ben-Ami, head of the government’s State of Emergency  Unit, the aim is to train future leaders how to handle catastrophes involving large numbers of casualties, widespread damage to property, and hundreds, even, thousands, left homeless.  Soffer noted that since 9/11, around a hundred disaster management courses have sprung up in the United States.

Along with the availability of rescue and emergency equipment, he commented, it is the preparedness of leaders and the knowledge of what has to be done that are of utmost importance in helping to save lives in a mega event.  Ben-Ami said that the course of study will enable graduates to deal with catastrophes in any orderly manner, rather than in the makeshift fashion that currently characterizes disaster management.

Students come various services that handle tragedies: the IDF Homefront Command, the Fire and Rescue Service, Magen David Adom, as well as from local authorities and such large utilities as Bezeq (the phone company) and Israel Electric.


In This Issue:

President’s Focus
Continuity, Change, and Social Responsibility

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, a Former Negotiator, Reflects on Israel-Jordan Relations
at a Conference Here Marking a Decade of a Formal Peace
Former Jordanian Minister and Negotiator Heads Delegation from Jordan Here

Unique ‘Open Apartment’ Project Benefits Community and Students

University Obtains Its First Biotech Patent in the U.S.

Researcher Develops Computerized Handwriting Evaluation System

Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi Named Rector of the University

Prof. David Faraggi—Deputy Rector

Eskesta Success Continues

Student Builds Internet Site of Never-Recorded Israeli Army Songs

University Campus Gradually Becoming Wireless

Honors and Appointments



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