A Jumbo Problem on Moshav Bnei Atarot

From a small field on the most southern portion of Moshav Bnei Atarot, Runway 0826 at Ben-Gurion International Airport is clearly visible. The two airport towers light up the night sky.

Last Friday morning at 1:30 Eli Solomon, 24, and Guy Elrom, 22, of Rishon Letzion stood at a relatively high spot on the moshav surveying the scene at the airport.

Nir Kafri

Leaning on the hood of their white van, they smoked one cigarette after another. Some of the time, they spent reminiscing about the army, talking about women or their plans in life, but mostly they watched the jumbo jets.

"There's nothing like a jumbo," Solomon said over and over. Elrom chimed in that jumbos were "the real thing."

The pair had arrived at their vantage point around midnight and had reported seeing two jumbo jets, but for a long spell after that it was only smaller two-engine planes that flew overhead, depriving the two of what they call the "jumbo effect," so the had no choice but to keep waiting.

The jumbo effect occurs when the aluminum jumbo jet monster weighing close to 200 tons screeches by with its four engines at a velocity of 300 kilometers per hour just a few dozen meters overhead. The vibrometer application on an Android smartphone came up with a measurement of 4, which translates into a "moderate" reading, meaning that it would shake hanging objects. The two planespotters threw their heads back and laughed with all their might.

Danny Sakajio, 43, lives in the southernmost building on the moshav, right next door. He recounts that he sees Eli and Guy there almost every night. He has no special relationship with them, and they don't bother him, but they come to Bnei Atarot to witness a sight that is the bane of the existence of Sakajio and his neighbors.

Since last week, the other airport runway, 1230, has been closed for takeoffs and landings as part of a major renovation plan that is to continue on and off until September 2013. Once the other runway was closed, all of the airport's aviation traffic has had to use 0826, which goes right over the southern part of the moshav.

Since last Friday, Sakajio, as well of course as his neighbors, have had trouble falling asleep. Their daily routines have been disrupted, but their sleep routines have been particularly influenced by the so-called jumbo effect.

"Beyond the noise, the major problem comes on takeoff. Then the engines are working at full thrust and the whole house shakes," said Sakajio, who just moved to the moshav three months ago. "The landlord warned me, so I knew what to expect," he acknowledged, but he said he could not imagine how great a nuisance it would be.

The Israel Airports Authority paid for the installation of triple-pane windows and new air conditioners. "Otherwise, I would never be able to fall asleep," he said, and also admitted that over time he has begun to adjust to the situation. Fewer than 10 other houses on the moshav have gotten the noise-resistant improvements so far, and there are more than 50 more to go throughout the southern section of Bnei Atarot.

In the interim, about 200 other residents of the moshav have been offered the chance to temporarily move to a hotel. Despite the major disruption caused by the noise of overhead airplanes, however, demand for the offer has been sparse.

"It's not a solution for everyone, even on a temporary basis," said Boaz Sandler, a former head of the moshav, who has been leading contacts between residents and aviation authorities.

By 2:30 A.M. Friday, takeoffs were over for the night, and with it the jumbo effect, but by day's break it was back again.