Earthquakes in Israel: Tenth Tremor in a Week Shakes North

A 3.2 earthquake was registered today near Lake Kinneret, joining a string of tremors from recent days, some that reached up to 4.5 in strength

Excavating at Hippos, with view of the Sea of Galilee
Zinman Institute/Dr. Michael Eisenberg

An earthquake was felt Sunday morning in northern Israel, registering a 3.2 in magnitude. The epicenter of the tremor was the Lake Kinneret, which was also the site of a string of earlier tremors felt throughout the region in the past week.

The current quake was the tenth registering between 3-4.5 in strength. Overall, some 30 tremors were felt in Israel recently, some at very low intensity. On Saturday was a 3.4 quake felt in the north and on Thursday another 3.2 tremor was reported in Lake Kinneret.

>> Minor quake swarm shakes Israel's Sea of Galilee - are more to come?

Quakes around Lake Kinneret and in the region in general are not rare. The sea, actually a freshwater lake, sits smack on the Dead Sea Fault (which people call the Great Rift Valley), stretching thousands of kilometers from Africa to Turkey, according to Yariv Hamiel, head of Geological Hazards at the Israel Geological Institute.

"We had a similar swarm in October 2013 that continued for a month in exactly the same place – north Kinneret," he said. "The intensities were a little less then – the strongest then was above 3 but didn't reach 4."

The quakes in Israel are of the type called slide-slip. Israel sits on the Sinai plate, which rubs against the Arabian plate to our east. The Arabian plate is moving north relative to the Sinai plate, and the result is the occasional very big quake.

In recent history, Israel suffered powerful temblors in 1927, in the northern part of the Dead Sea, and another in 1995, centered in the Gulf of Eilat. Doing the math over about 2,000 years, says Hamiel, we see powerful quakes roughly every 80 to 100 years. So yes, Israel is overdue for a big one, which could happen at any part of the Dead Sea fault. "We know where, but we don't know when," Hamiel spells out.

Archaeologists have found stark evidence of past temblors in all the ancient cities around the Sea of Galilee, including Tiberias itself and Hippos-Sussita on the other side of the lake, and Beit She'an a bit to the south of them both, to name just three. All were destroyed by temblors in the year 363 C.E. Tiberias and Beit She'an recovered. Hippos, finally leveled by the moving earth in the year 749, was never rebuilt.

Ruth Schuster contributed background to this report