Defending Israel

IFCJ puts up bomb shelters in northern Israel amid heightened security tensions

Nine new protective structures to be installed in areas recently targeted by rocket attacks in Galilee

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews will install nine new public bomb shelters in northern Israel next week as part of a larger effort to shore up the country’s physical defenses in light of growing threats from Lebanon and Syria, the organization said this week.

Until now, IFCJ has focused primarily on building and renovating bomb shelters in southern Israel, closer to the Gaza Strip, in line with security assessments from the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command. In recent years, which have seen multiple flare-ups on Israel’s northern borders, the military and the Defense Ministry have begun reinforcing those areas as well, which for years have lacked the bomb shelters necessary to properly defend residents from rocket attacks, according to State Comptroller reports.

While new buildings are required to include bomb shelters for residents, many people living in older homes and apartment complexes do not have adequate protection from rocket attacks or earthquakes. Public shelters, which municipalities are required to maintain, are often used as ad hoc storage facilities and are not kept in proper working order. 

A 2020 comptroller report found that nearly a third of Israelis did not have ready access to functioning bomb shelters, including hundreds of thousands who live close to volatile borders. The report found that as of 2019 a fifth of the country’s 12,601 public bomb shelters would not offer proper protection in an attack.

Next week, IFCJ will install six new shelters in communities in the Mateh Asher region of the western Galilee and three new shelters in the town of Yesod Hamaale in the eastern Galilee’s Hula Valley, the organization said.

Last week, residents of the Mateh Asher region were forced to rush to existing bomb shelters as 34 rockets were fired at them in an attack attributed to the Hamas terror group in Lebanon.

Israeli air defenses remained on high alert this week ahead of the last Friday of Ramadan, which has historically been a period of increased security tensions for Israel and which Iran marks as “Quds Day” with anti-Israel activities.

“Strengthening the protection of Israel and her people during emergencies is one of the main missions of the Fellowship,” said Yael Eckstein, president of IFCJ. “These shelters not only provide this protection but also represent the decades of support and love of our hundreds of thousands of donors around the world in making this happen.” 

The organization noted that these nine new shelters will join dozens of others that it has installed in northern Israel in the past few months.

“Just recently IFCJ has doubled the amount of shelters in the city of Tiberias as well as installing 10 new shelters in public spaces in the Maale Yosef region in the western Galilee,” the organization said. “The placement of the shelters was based on assessments of the IDF Home Front Command which worked to identify specific geographic areas where residents required additional protection.”

IFCJ said it has built over 400 shelters across the country at a cost of over $5 million and renovated another 2,400 shelters at a cost of $16 million in recent years, out of a fund of $30 million that it has set aside for “emergency and security protection.”

“Our goal is to assist in reducing the gaps in protection all across the country,” said Safwan Marich, director of the Safety and Emergency Response Division of IFCJ.  “These new shelters were all placed in a calculated manner in coordination with Home Front Command, with the aim of providing a safe response to any future event, with the hope of course that it will not be necessary.”