A recent surprise inspection revealed that some of the shelters in the north that were refurbished last year with contributions from abroad have been broken into, cut off from electricity or filled with garbage.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews contributed an estimated NIS 40 million to renovate some 1,839 shelters in apartment houses in nine northern cities. The renovation included replacing electrical infrastructure, installing emergency lighting, wiring for air conditioning and plumbing fixtures, plus cleaning, painting and fumigating.

The organization's chairwoman, Dvorah Ganani-Elad, made the surprise inspection tour of shelters in Acre, Kiryat Shmona and Safed, accompanied by Col. Yehiel Kuperstein, a former senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command.

The visitors found that the situation was particularly bad in Safed, where the shelters had been disconnected from the electric grid. Of the two shelters checked on Zalman Shazar Street, one had been broken into and the other was full of garbage and piles of discarded equipment. In one room were sacred books that had been tossed out, and smashed light bulbs.

The visitors said it was obvious that the place would not be usable as a shelter in an emergency situation.

Three shelters were visited on Yefeh Nof Street in Safed. In one the toilet had been torn out; in two other shelters the locks had been changed and the visitors were unable to get in to inspect them.

In Kiryat Shmona the visitors said they found the shelters "generally" in good condition. However, one was found unlocked and disconnected from the electricity because of failure to pay the bill.

In Acre, the visitors described the condition of the three shelters they checked as "good," although they, too, had been disconnected from the electricity.

"The donors to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews are mainly Christians who love Israel, and who give up luxuries for themselves in order to help the people of Israel," Ganani-Elad said after the inspection. "They invested NIS 40 million in shelters in the north after the war to provide the residents of the north with basic protection. We regret that there are residents who take this contribution lightly. Beyond this, we are also sad that those who will need these shelters when the day comes will not be able to enjoy the protection they afforded, because some residents have decided to turn them into their private castles."

Moshe Ohana, the spokesman for the Safed municipality, said that the shelters were the responsibility of the apartment houses' residents' committees. He added that the city had instructed the committees to see to the removal of all unauthorized equipment that had been placed in the shelters, and had replaced the tenants previously responsible for the shelters' maintenance with other people.

Danny Kadosh, general director of the Kiryat Shmona municipality, said the problem with the electricity had affected the entrance to only one shelter.