Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund announced on Sunday that it will provide 160 portable bomb shelters to communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The KKLJNF raised $4 million from Diaspora Jews for the project, which will place concrete structures in Ofakim, Bnei Shimon, Gan Yavne, Sderot, Naveh, Bnei Netzarim, Sdot Negev, Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Merhavim, Sha’ar Hanegev and Netivot as well as in the Beduin communities of Lakiya, Sha’ar Shalom, Rahat and Hura.
KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler said that world Jewry had shown “unprecedented solidarity” with Israel, protesting and donating money on the Jewish state’s behalf, which explained that the shelters would allow residents of communities who have been “besieged in their homes for weeks” a little more freedom to move outside.
Community leaders around the Gaza border complained to the KKL-JNF in a series of meetings and claimed that because of the close proximity to missile launchers in Gaza, some towns only kilometers away, “do not enjoy the protection” of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield.
Families, local representatives complained, habitually spend “long hours in bomb shelters and protected spaces without the ability to move out of their homes.”
Yitzhak Danino, the mayor of Ofakim, said that 1,280 housing units built for new immigrants during the 90s were “made of cardboard,” lacked reinforced rooms and that the shelters would allow for a greater degree of security among residents.
Praying for a return to peace, Amar Abu Ma’amar, the mayor of Shaqib al-Salam (Segev Shalom) local council, a Beduin community, thanked the KKL-JNF, calling the new shelters “very important for protection.”
Many poor southern communities, both Arab and Jewish, lack proper bomb shelters.
The High Court Of Justice recently rejected a petition to force the government to build shelters in a number of Beduin communities, accepting the state’s argument that there is no discrimination against them and that limited resources and a lower threat-level are the reasons for the state being unable to provide immediate protection.
Critics, including the Regavim pro-settlement group, asserted that the state ought not to provide shelters for so-called “unrecognized villages,” which were built illegally.
The Welfare and Social Services Ministry in collaboration with the Israeli Society of SOS Children’s Villages and NEGBA, a network of Houses of Hope for children at risk opened three protected centers in Abu Karinat, a Beduin village in the South last week.
Yonah Jeremy Bob and Lidar Gravé-Lazi contributed to this report.