With a Conflict in Gaza Southern Israel on the horizon, no Israeli government offices will take responsibility to prepare shelters in Sderot, on the edge of Gaza

The city of Sderot has suffered over the past six years from the Kassam missile threat which comes from the Gaza Strip. Bomb shelters are crucial to save people’s lives.

Yet from a discussion with the chief security officer in Sderot, Yehuda Ben-Maman (58), it is clear that there are still several bomb shelters which aren’t meant for human presence.

Yehuda Ben-Maman is serving as the security officer of Sderot. This is his 6th year in the job. In addition he is responsible for the safety of all educational institutions and other emergency services in the city.

“Why aren’t there any good bomb shelters and safety rooms fro the citizens of Sderot?

“Let’s focus on the public sector”, says Yehuda. “In Sderot there are 58 public bomb shelters which are categorized as following: 28 are defined as dual-purpose and they are in good shape, in 18 of them there isn’t any electricity source nor a functioning faucet, seven others are flooded with rain water and are in terrible condition. The rest of the bomb shelters are lacking any electricity source and must be fixed soon.”

Who’s to blame for this neglect? “I’ll make myself very clear – I’m not blaming anyone. I expect the Home Front Command to fix the bomb shelters in the near future, as they did in the past, so we could upgrade the quality of the safety rooms. So as I said, I await the HFC’s actions in this regard.”

Why aren’t there any shelters for the many of the schools in the city? “Initially, the schools were intended to be fully secured. But due to financial problems that were reported by the HFC and the security office, the decision was to give a security package to each and every educational institute. However, this package doesn’t meet all security needs, for instance when the “red color” alarm goes on, students move from an unprotected classroom to a protected one.” Yehuda describes a legal procedure that was meant to improve the conditions of the bomb shelters: “Due to a Israel High Court of Justice decision, after the Sderot Parents Association sued for protection of the schools, the court demanded from the state of Israel to obtain in 45 days the necessary security means to the students of all educational institutions in Sderot. Consequently, we’ve rehearsed some security drills in some schools and we hope now that protection for the first three grades is on the way.”

Are you familiar with an incident in which a Kassam missile has landed on a school?

“There are a few schools that were damaged by these missiles, here are some of the names: “Yesodei Hatora”, “Shikmim Maoz”, “Madayim Torani”, “Madayim Alon”.

In your opinion, do you suppose that security and protection in Sderot is more of a local worry that the police should handle or do you think the army and the government must be involved?

“I’m certain it’s a matter that should concern the entire country and not only Sderot’s municipality. The life of every citizen is the country’s responsibility but the government isn’t providing the security which is very much needed.”

Economically, how much money is missing in order to build efficient safety rooms and is the neglect also due to the fact Sderot isn’t Tel-Aviv and is considered a periphal city?

“You’re talking about the private sector so I don’t have an answer about how much money is needed. I don’t think there are any stigmas about Sderot not being the center of interest. The problem is that the government is systematically ignoring the citizens’ protests.”

We’ve checked three main bomb shelters in Sderot and came up with the following:

1. The bomb shelter in Shabazi street is in the worst shape and won’t be useful in emergency times due to its’ terrible condition.

2. The public bomb shelter in the corner of the streets Moshe Rabainu and Yona is a dual-purpose bomb shelter and is in adequate condition. There are defects in the electrical l system, the air conditioning, and other minor details.

3. The public bomb shelter in Moshe Rabainu street, in Mishol Yitshak neighborhood, is in good shape and is used also as a synagogue.

When the spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior was asked about security funding and planning of safety rooms in Sderot she replied as following: ” It has nothing to do with us, you should ask the Ministry of Defense. However, regarding planning we are in charge.”

The Ministry of Defense’s spokesman also didn’t claim any responsibility for the situation and replied: please contact the HFC for security matters, since we don’t deal with it at all.” She added that “The Ministry of Defense has provided suitable safety rooms to some schools.”

In other words, Ministry of Interior referred the responsibility to the Ministry of Defense which passed it to the HFC which passed it back to the Ministry of Interior. The tough question: “When will some public body take responsibility?”, “When will somebody fix the bomb shelters in Sderot?.” People were killed because of the lack of security rooms.

One must wonder: until when will this situation continue?.

Contact information:
Sderot Information Center for the Western Negev Ltd:
POB 472, 12 RaKefet Street,
Sderot, Israel

Tel: 03-6364017
SderotMedia@aol.com
www.SderotMedia.com

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