Better Heat Than Rockets: Tiberias Takes Dubious Honor of Hottest Place in Israel

'If I knew it would be this hot I would have gone to Eilat,' says one vacationer.

Almog Kashtacher and his two buddies from Rehovot had planned their pre-army hike from the Mediterranean to Lake Kinneret for quite some time, and so they set out Sunday despite the heat wave. "We walked 25 kilometers. It wasn't fun, you might say," the exhausted Kashtacher said. "We didn't expect such heat."

The threesome spent the night at the Galilee mountain community of Abirim, and began to head eastward to the Kinneret the next day, but the sun got the better of them. They reached the lake alright - hitch-hiking. Before jumping into the water, they spent a few hours in the airconditioning at the nearest McDonalds.

Almog Kashtacher, left, and friends trying to stay cool in Tiberias
Yaron Kaminsky

"We'll finish the trip another time, but it will have to be after we're done with the army," Kashtacher said.

Ilan Hadad, however, has to bear the heat if he wants to make a living. When it's 40 degrees in the street, Hadad says, its 50 inside the tiny stand where he's been selling fellafel and shwarma for 26 years.

"It's hell," a vacationer from Jerusalem, who had come for a bite to eat at Hadad's stand, said. "How do you live here?" he asked, wiping away the sweat. "If I had known it would be this hot I would have gone to Eilat," the man said.

"Better heat than Katyushas," Hadad retorted, referring to rockets fired reportedly from Sinai yesterday that landed in Aqaba, across from Eilat.

Fifth-generation Tiberian Uri Yair sat placidly outside his fish store. Never does he remember such heat, he said, but added, philosophically: "What do you expect in August - rain? It's not winter."

Life before A/C

Yair remembers in the age before airconditioning - how he and his 10 brothers slept in one room on the floor in the summer. "Today people are spoiled," he concludes.

But not only people are spoiled. Yair concedes that the fish don't like the heat either.

"We don't have enough trouble fishing the lake and along comes this heat. The fish don't get enough oxygen so they dive to the bottom where they can find mud clouds that keep them comfortable."

Jojo Zohar agrees with Yair. When he came to Tiberias from Morocco in 1962, he says, "it was just as hot, and in those days, don't forget, we didn't have airconditioners and refrigerators. When it hit 50, I think it was, we'd go down to the city and buy a quarter-block of ice. But we've gotten used to it since then, it's not too bad," Zohar concludes.