Eran Wolkowski | eranwol@haaretz.co.il
Photo by Eran Wolkowski | eranwol@haaretz.co.il
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Outside certain principalities and small colonies, the people in the world who have the highest life span are the Japanese, averaging more than 82 years. Japan's political regime has not enjoyed stability in recent years, but the dry facts show that its responsibility toward its citizens has not diminished. When you are born in Japan, you can expect a long life.

These facts do not console the victims of the huge natural disaster that engulfed the country over the weekend: a horrific earthquake and a tsunami that have produced more than 1,300 casualties and many missing persons, along with property damage worth billions of dollars and the danger of nuclear fallout.

The precedent of the Chernobyl catastrophe is remembered, but still, it's startling to grasp that Japan, of all countries that have civilian nuclear reactors and whose representative heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, is the country likely to be harmed by damage wrought by nature to a reactor. Three generations after Hiroshima, Japan faces nuclear threats at Fukushima. This is sobering testimony to nature's power to convulse human beings who are convinced that they have learned to preempt its wrath.

According to all the reports, Japan's long experience dealing with earthquakes prevented an even worse catastrophe. When building structures, they took into account the frequency of earthquakes. The convulsion in Japan on Friday was much more ferocious than the one that hit New Zealand last month, yet the number of casualties in Japan was proportionately smaller, when the difference of the earthquakes' intensity is taken into account.

Nevertheless, there is no real way to prepare for a tsunami's waves, at least as long as people choose to inhabit risky coastal areas. That's the price paid for life on an island, where much of the workforce depends on the sea. It's doubtful that advance warnings would have persuaded the population as a whole to flee the coast.

Israel acted properly when it expressed empathy and concern for the victims of the tragedy, even if Japan doesn't need the assistance Israel has offered. This is one of those moments when humanity as a whole understands that we are all in the same boat, subject to the whims of nature.