Earthquake! How to Preserve Israel's Treasures


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Earthquakes can devastate an entire city or region in many ways. Depending on strength and location, it can kill hundreds and destroy natural and cultural landmarks.

The walled city of Jerusalem is instantly recognizable and one symbol stands above the rest: the Tower of David.

"The Tower of David is the symbol, it's the gateway actually to the Old City and also to the new," Tower of David Museum Director Eilat Leiber said.

Leiber gave CBN News a rare look at the panoramic view of Jerusalem from the tower. Its history and value are unquestioned and many wonder whether it and other Jerusalem relics could withstand a major earthquake.

Nature forced Italy to answer that question twice in 2009 and 2012. Major earthquakes killed hundreds and destroyed numerous buildings, including historical sites.

"Our job is to help people, of course, and to prop up and insure buildings damaged by earthquakes," Luca Ponticelli, with the Italian Department of Public Rescue and Civil Defense, said.

Recently, Ponticelli shared his earthquake experience and what he learned at a seminar in Jerusalem.

"I was one of the experts that implemented our technical procedures to shore or prop up the buildings," he told CBN News. "My mission here is to explain our job." 

It's all part of an international project to protect historical sites from earthquakes.

The Tower of David is the first heritage site to be chosen in Israel for this international project. It's been installed from top to bottom with a special system that monitors cracks in the tower and the region's seismic activity.

The last major earthquake to hit Jerusalem was in 1927. With Israel straddling the Jordan Rift Valley, experts predict it's time for another.

Dr. Avi Shapira heads the effort to prepare Israel for such a disaster.

"We had earthquakes. We will have earthquakes," Shapira predicted.

"What we are urging our engineering community and all the national authorities, communities who are interested in this, is really to check the satiation of these structures to withstand earthquake and to do something if possible. And it is possible," he said.

"This seminar is actually presenting what it is possible to do," he explained

The goal for Shapira and others is to preserve Jerusalem treasures, like the Tower of David.

"Everybody's talking about the big earthquake coming and we must be part of the academic research," Lieber said.

Shapira agreed.

"You know we live in the Holy Land -- not only the Holy Land but the Promised Land, and we also have to promise our children and grandchildren that something will remain for them to see," Shapira said.

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