This week, Israel experienced - and is still experiencing - one of the worst electricity shortages in its history. As I write this, thousands of families are still without electricity - a staggering number in a small country like ours.
It all began on Sunday, which actually started out with a sunny aspect. I put in a load of laundry, intending to hang it outside later. However, ominous dark clouds soon looked in from the west. I marveled at how fast they moved toward us.
About five or ten minutes after my husband left for work, a powerful gust of wind hit our house. I could see objects flying in the neighborhood - pieces of cardboard, plastic bags, tangles of dry weed. The windows shook and rattled, and the thick clouds made it almost as dark as night. My children, frightened, asked "but what if the house should fall?" - I assured them it would be fine, and at that moment, the electricity went out. I congratulated myself for putting in the load of laundry early enough in the morning so it was done by now. I opened the folding rack and hung it to dry inside.
To obtain some cheerfulness and light, we proceeded to look for some candles. We lit several and put them on a tray in the middle of our combined kitchen/living room table. I also added a few drops of essential oil to an oil burner, and for a little while we drew and read by candlelight. It was comfy and cozy. There are no large trees near us that could break and fall and damage the house, so I was pretty sanguine on that account.
Unexpectedly, my husband came back. It turned out his car was hit by something - he wasn't even sure what - flying in the high wind, and there was damage to the front window which obliged him to turn back home to make a call to the insurance company. I just felt relieved he wasn't hurt.
Because I didn't know how long the electricity would be off, I tried not to open the fridge or freezer unnecessarily. The power flow returned an hour or two later, which is not uncommon in our area, so I didn't think much of it but went on as usual. At that time, I didn't know that the uncommonly strong winds caused extraordinary damage to the electricity infrastructure that left around 200,000 people with no electricity.
A photo of our resident chameleon, taken while that eventful morning was still sunny.
All this made me think about how good it is to be prepared for emergencies. Something of this sort is quite uncommon in Israel - in our area, yes, we do have shortages, especially in winter, but in most places I used to think the power flow is completely reliable. It turns out you can never count on something entirely. The few people who have their own independent source of electricity (solar panels, etc) are in luck. I do wish we could have our own source of electricity.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that in Israel, the electricity supply and services are monopolized by a single company. They control the bills and the level of service, which is an outrage in itself. If the company workers decide to go on a strike, thousands of innocent people can be held hostage, so to speak, with great inconveniences and financial damage.
Things could be a lot worse. Think of something like this happening last winter, when it was extraordinarily cold and snowed all over the country. In such a case people would be stuck with no proper heating, on top of everything else.
Even if you have no independent source of electricity, you can be prepared for an emergency by the option of using gas or wood for cooking and heating, by keeping a stock of matches, candles, flashlights and batteries, and by having your emergency lights fully charged.