According to the Homefront Command, bomb shelters in homes that are built to standard have saved dozens of lives, as people who were in the shelters when rockets hit their homes were, b’chasdei Shamayim, saved, while the homes themselves suffered significant damage – and would have fatally harmed them had it not been for the shelter. On Tuesday, as some 200 rockets fired by Gaza Arab terrorists fell on Israel, Red Alert warning sirens were heard several times in the Tel Aviv area, leading the Homefront Command to cancel gatherings of 300 or more people at any venue in the region, canceling school, and “strongly recommending” that people not go to work if they could avoid it.
Yet over 2.5 million people living in the center of the country do not have easy access to bomb shelters, a report by Yediot Acharonot shows – increasing the possibility that many people could be hurt or killed, chas veshalom, in a round of warfare in which terrorists fired rockets at Tel Aviv and the surrounding area.
Residents who do not have bomb shelters in their apartments are supposed to take shelter in neighborhood bomb shelters, which are supposed to have facilities for hundreds of people. But these shelters are often a significant distance from where people live; in the Tel Aviv area, Homefront Command regulations say that residents have a total of three minutes to take shelter when a Red Alert warning siren goes off, indicating that a rocket is on its way.
In addition, many of the bomb shelters, which were built in the 1950s and 1960s, have been appropriated for purposes other than security; community groups run classes and activities in them, and some have even been turned into shuls in neighborhoods where there is a shortage of shul seats. As a result, many residents effectively have no shelters they can use in time of attacks.
Apartments built since the early 1990s are required to have one room that can operate as a bomb shelter when needed, but most homes built before that period do not have private shelters. The older the city, the less likely homes will be to have a shelter, the Yediot study showed; in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, for example, 89% of homes had no bomb shelter, while in other “veteran” cities of the region, including Givatayim, Holon, Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, some three quarters of homes had no shelters.
One solution to the problem is the Tama 38 urban renewal program, which refits older housing and upgrades it to modern standards, adding among other things a bomb shelter. The Housing Ministry last week extended the program through 2022, after it was set to expire at the end of this year. With that, the program is by no means comprehensive, and the majority of homes in most cities are not affected by it, the report added.