Tiberias (Jul. 1)
The sight of this ruined old town rising Phoenix-like on the ashes and debris that resulted from the May cloudbursts is a refreshing one to those who motor down towards the lakeside from the heights near Mizpah, Jewish colony many generations old. Indeed, were it not for the loss of lives and the chaos that resulted from the floods, one might almost say that the recent disaster was a blessing in disguise. Had it not happened, the dilapidation and filth of this 2,000-year-old hamlet might have continued indefinitely.
The authorities have energetically taken reconstruction in hand, and while only a little above Â£1,000 has been contributed by Palestine inhabitants towards the constructive relief scheme, the government has taken the initiative of providing the homeless inhabitants with accommodation of a permanent and modern kind.
Modern concrete houses of pleasing design, up-to-date water and plumbing installations, electric lighting, wide and asphalted instead of cobble-stoned streets, are changing the face of old Tiberias, and the lakeside slums of a few months ago will by the end of this year be practically non-existent.
One agreeable feature of the new town planning is the provision made for trees and greenery. Unemployed inhabitantsâ€”artisans, shopkeepers, fishermen, a medley of tradesâ€”are being given jobs on the new structural activities. They are building their own homes and future business premises, and singing at their tasks.
Naturally the climatic conditions are not being ignored this time. Careful plans have been made by the authorities, so that the big channel leading off the hillside may be given free access to the sea in the probable event of future cloud-bursts, and may carry away the huge volumes of water that rush off the mountains into the arroyo and down towards the sea, without hindrance by compact masses of loosely built houses, as was the case on May 14 and 15.
ONE OF FIRST ON SCENE
I was one of the two first newspaper correspondents on the scene on that fateful first afternoon when the whole town was thrown into indescribable panic by the torrential waters that crashed and thundered through the dirty, narrow streets. With a companion I wandered through the sullen lanes, dim and lantern-lit on a dark evening, and saw the misery and confusion which an act of God had brought in its wake. I saw the bewildered refugees, men, women and children, Arabs and Oriental Jews, wandering towards their shelter in the upper parts of the city, where a complete relief system had been rigged up within a few hours with true British efficiency in the face of disaster, under the aegis of Edwin Herbert Samuel, eldest son of Sir Herbert Samuel, who was then Assistant District Commissioner for Galilee.
Faced with the terrible inevitability of the elements, these refugees could hardly think for themselves. All they could see were the corpses of their relatives and friends being carried to the morgue. They stood around, wailing for those who had been washed out into Lake Kinnereth.