Or Akiva Residents Demand Action Amid Allegations of Foot-dragging Over Cancer-causing Power Lines

Zvika Halili has two houses on Hakalanit Street in Or Akiva, a town between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Nonetheless, he and his four small children don't live in either house. When Halili's wife Lior died at age 40, Halili and his children moved to Netanya, far from where Lior became ill with cancer and the high-tension power lines near their Or Akiva homes.

They return to Or Akiva every morning for school and work, but they go back to Netanya every evening. So why not sell the houses?

They answer, who would want to live next to high-tension lines like that? Town residents say the lines have caused cancer among four of the occupants of the nine households nearby. They say residents are also suffering from other chronic diseases.

For the past 15 years or so, the street's residents have been battling to relocate the power lines that run six to 10 meters from their homes. The lines emit much higher radiation than the maximum set by the Environmental Protection Ministry. Residents, the mayor and representatives of the National Infrastructure Ministry and the Israel Electric Corporation have met many times on the subject.

Previous national infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer ordered that the power lines be relocated and said he found the "failure to carry out directives" unacceptable, but the work was still delayed.

The electric company says a solution has been found involving the relocation of the lines. It says the bidding process for the purchase of electricity poles has begun and the project is expected to be completed a year after the poles are procured.

When the neighborhood was developed in 1993, a row of lots was sold for single-family homes along the path of the high-tension wires, even though the plan for the area did not provide for homes to be built within 21 meters of the wires.

An activist, Esther Tzimbalista, referred to the town of fools in Yiddish folklore to make her point. "Chelm is here," she said. "I can't understand how construction and occupancy permits were issued for these houses when everybody knew there were high-tension wires here [that were] dangerous."

There is no solid evidence that the residents' heath problems have been caused by long-term exposure to radiation from the lines, says one letter Tzimbalista has received.

But in addition to Lior Halili, another woman in the area became ill with cancer, and neither had a family history of the disease. Their 73-year-old neighbor, Asher Tishbi, came down with prostate cancer and his daughter has suffered eight miscarriages.