October 16th, 2006
To: Gal Alon, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel From: David Bedein, MSW, Bureau Chief, Israel Resource News Agency
This is written after visiting our new bureau in Sderot which will serve the foreign media.
Since Israel can expect an escalation of attacks in the south over the next few months, please note the following queries which have been generated from our office in Sderot:
1. While there are 17 social work professionals in Sderot, the city needs a center for coordination of emergency social services and it needs a trauma center. At the same time, there is a sore lack of funding for psychiatrists and psychologists on the scene, Will the government allocate funds for these purposes?
2. The 80 shelters in Sderot are locked and not yet ready, and at least 10 of the shelters are without water and electricity. Will the government immediately prepare these shelters, to be ready to cope with a Lebanon-type situation of constant fire?
3. At least 800 homes in Sderot have no safe rooms in case of attack. Will the government allocate resources to build safe rooms contiguous to these homes?
4. Only 20% of the 34 million shekel security protection budget has been allocated. Will the rest of the funds be allocated?
5. Some schools have been protected and others have not been protected, while only parts of some schools have been protected. When will the protection in the schools be completed?
6. Sderot is being fired at from the haven of the UNRWA camp in Jabalya. The people in UNRWA camp of Jabalya are descended from residents of Najd which is now Sderot, and they feel that they have a right to fire missiles from Jabalya at Sderot. The question is: Will the government make a formal demand to UNRWA and to the nations which fund UNRWA (USA- 31%, for example) to stop allowing UNRWA Jabalya residents from firing rockets into Sderot?
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Answer received on October 30th, 2006:
Our comment: “The government has decided to include Sderot and all other villages around the Gaza Strip in a large 2.8 billion Shekels’ plan to strengthen the North and Haifa. Under this plan, significant budgets are invested in creating education and employment opportunities. A full presentation about it can be found on our website. Generally, the government allocates annual funds to the local authorities to support the welfare services, and decisions about provision at the local level should be directed to the relevant authorities”.
The issue of shelters is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior, and questions should be directed to the local authority as well, which is the major body who is in charge on the shelters. As to the protection of school classes – the decision as of the way to protect these classes (including which classes should be protected) was taken by professionals. As to your questions about the lack of shelters and the amount of budget used already – I have no information about it.
============ Gal Alon Prime Minister’s Office 3 Kaplan Street, Jerusalem, Israel Office: +972 (2) 6705518
To: Gal Alon, Office of the Prime Minister of Israel From: David Bedein, Israel Resource News Agency Date: 1 November 2006
Thank you for relating to my questions, which are written from my perspective as a veteran community organization social worker (1974-1986) and my work as a journalist (1987-present)
Here are the follow up questions to your response:
1. Will there be an increase in the Israel government welfare allocations to Sderot and to the Western Negev, to ad the amount of social workers, psychologists and Psychiatrists? Will a trauma center be created? Given the emergency stress situation of an area under siege, if the government does not have the resources, will the PM ask for resources from private corporations and/or from local or foreign philanthropies? While you are correct to note that all decisions are made on the local level, as you point out, all policies and all increased allocations emanate from the national level.
Since Mr. Ehud Olmert also acts as he Minister of Social Affairs, it would also be appropriate to address these questions to him in that capacity.
2. You are correct in noting that the decision to protect the schools is taken by professionals in the Israel Ministry of Education and in the local department of education. However, the Ministry of Education and the local department of education do not have any more budget left in order to protect the schools, leaving some schools partially protected and some schools not protected at all.
Follow-up question: Will Prime Minister Olmert initiate an effort to raise funds that are needed to protect ALL schools and kindergartens in Sderot and the Western Negev? Given the emergency stress situation of an area under siege, if the government does not have the resources, will the PM ask for resources from private corporations and/or from local or foreign philanthropies?
3. We have determined that the issue of shelters is under the jurisdiction of the Israel Civil Defence Command of “PIKUD HAOREF”. Since our news agency cannot elicit a straight answer from them as to why the shelters in Sderot are locked and not prepared for the eventuality of an escalation of bombing which would require the residents of Sderot to stay in shelters while bombing occurs, will the office of the Prime Minister of Israel intervene to make sure that the shelters in Sderot are immediately prepared? Lives depend on this.
Thank you again for your time, and best of luck in your position.