On Saturday around 6 PM, an hour and a half before the end of Shabbat, motorists driving into Tel Aviv for their last bit of weekend fun were stuck in an ungodly traffic jam, in a country where traffic jams are people’s main means of transportation. A 4-yard wide section of the southbound Ayalon Highway––connecting the coastal cities just south of Netanya with the metropolitan area with its lavish restaurants, bars, theaters, and street life––became a sinkhole, 12 meters deep.
The social networks reported that by the time the authorities had arrived to assess the damage, the sinkhole had already been rented out to six students for $7,000. That was funny. The reality was way less funny: it turned out somebody had been digging underground and created an opening for a flood of underground water (Ayalon used to be a river before it became a highway), that swept away everything beneath the pavement in that section, the pavement sank in, hence the sinkhole.
It was a miracle this happened on Shabbat when traffic in Israel is relatively tame, or God knows what the resulting damage would have been. As the late essayist Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg, known by his Hebrew pen name Ahad Ha’am, put it: More than the Israelites have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Israelites.
The head of the maintenance and operation department at Ayalon Routes, Nir Kessel, told Kan 11 News: “This digging lasted several hours and the entire lower part of the road was washed away with the current.”
How much of this major highway now sits on top of, well, nothing? They checked overnight and decided the breach was local. So they filled up the gaping hole with flexible cement and let it sit overnight, and in the morning the highway was reopened, except for the section around the sinkhole which is part of the Hashalom exit near the Azrieli high-rises, which leads to the Kirya compound where the Defense Ministry and IDF Command sit.
Train traffic that had been interrupted overnight was resumed at 5 AM. The Hashalom exit will remain shut at least through Monday.