Communities Throughout the Country Suffer Shortage of Protected Spaces

Reports on shortcomings in residential emergency facilities in communities across the country are not new. In Safed's ultra-Orthodox Maor Haim quarter, for example, residents know that should the alarm sound, only a few of them will be able to find cover in time.

Two years ago, the State Comptroller reported on the shortage of emergency facilities in the neighborhood. "Every building has a shelter, but it is too narrow to hold most of the residents," the report stated. "For example, two 100 square-meter shelters are supposed to hold the neighborhood's 90 to 100 families, numbering some 500-600 people."

The working assumption of Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command is that the average person will spend only a short time in the shelter, and therefore needs only 0.4 square meters. But even by these minimal standards, Maor Haim's shelters can hold only half of its residents. Worse still, two such facilities are used to store residents' belongings.

"During the Second Lebanon War, 70 percent of residents left the city. But what will we do during total war - where will people take shelter?" asked community official Zeev Shababo.

Six months ago a Qassam rocket landed in Netivot, laying waste to a home. Not far from there, 58-year-old Bebert Vaknin was killed in a Qassam blast. The neighborhood's homes are made of wood, and any rocket hit could lead to disaster.

Following January's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Home Front Command decided to erect outdoor concrete shelters in the neighborhood. But residents say it simply takes too long to reach them: "It takes us more than two minutes to reach the shelters in the event of an alarm," said resident Adiel Gahasi. "There isn't room for everyone in these small shelters. In any case they stink of urine and excrement, and it's not pleasant to be there at all."