With quake fears looming, Israel races to protect ancient sites

Israeli and American soldiers participate in a joint earthquake drill in Holon on October 21, 2012. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
JERUSALEM
(AP) — With Israel situated in one of the world’s earthquake-prone areas, officials are taking action to protect the Holy Land’s most important ancient treasures so they don’t come tumbling down. After a series of five moderate earthquakes shook the country in October, experts installed a seismic monitoring system at the Tower of David, one of Jerusalem’s most important — and most visible — historical sites.  The project is Israel’s first attempt to use such technology to determine structural weaknesses in the countless ancient edifices that dot the Holy Land. The efforts, however, have been slowed by authorities’ reticence to publicly declare sites as vulnerable, as well as the explosive geopolitics surrounding ancient Jewish, Christian and Muslim sites at the heart of the Mideast conflict. “We have to remember that this is the Holy Land,” said Avi Shapira, head of a national steering committee for earthquake preparedness. “We have some responsibility not only to preserve the historical monuments of our personal heritage … but also for the rest of the world.” Most of Israel’s historical sites “have not been checked,” said Shapira. “We have them on the map, but an engineer still hasn’t visited them.” More
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