State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss revealed on Tuesday a litany of home front
failures, which he said leave Israelis vulnerable in the case of war or
Between August 2010 and April 2011, Lindenstrauss examined the
municipalities of Or Yehuda, Hod Hasharon, Yavne, Kiryat Malachi, Ofakim, Tamra
and Majd al-Kurum for home front preparedness.
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The results were uniformly
damning: Five years after the Second Lebanon War, hundreds of thousands of
Israelis lack access to emergency bomb shelters, local authorities have not been
trained to deal with specific threats and many schools and kindergartens lack
adequate bomb protection.
Bomb shelters in many local areas are in an
appalling state, said the report, which was presented to Knesset Speaker Reuven
Rivlin. Many more shelters suffer from a shortage of basic facilities including
rubber sealing, sewage pumps and even doors. Still more were found to be
unconnected to the electricity grid, and many suffered from severe
Even more seriously, many shelters are not equipped with emergency
supplies, including essential fire-fighting materials, the report
All of the shelters in the southern city of Ofakim, west of
Beersheba, which suffered Grad rocket attacks from Gaza in January, were found
to have substantial defects – 10 have no toilet facilities and 41 are without
emergency lighting. The city’s shelters were so bad that they were unfit for
use, Lindenstrauss said.
The audit also revealed that shelters in many
municipalities are inaccessible to people with disabilities, and that some local
authorities had not prepared any plans for evacuating people with special
Ofakim was cited again, as Lindenstrauss found 38 public shelters
did not have disabled access and noted that many more had unclear access
In response, Ofakim’s Mayor Zvika Greengold said financial
difficulties had prevented the municipality from making its shelters accessible
to those with special needs.
In Yavne, which also lacked shelters with
disabled access, municipal officials said the city special needs population” as
its shelters were built in the 1950s and cannot be adapted for disabled access.
However, the city said people with disabilities would be given evacuation
assistance in case of emergencies.
The report also slammed the Interior
Ministry’s Emergency Division, the Home Front Command and the National Emergency
Management Authority (NEMA), the special body in charge of dealing with the home
front established in 2007 in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, which comes
under the auspices of the Defense Ministry’s Home Front Defense
Referring to those agencies, Lindenstrauss said there is “a
concern that there are some [people] among the bodies responsible for preparing
local authorities for emergencies who are trying to shirk their
responsibilities, including that of allocating considerable financial resources
With regard to disabled access to shelters, Lindenstrauss
noted that in its response to the audit, NEMA and the Home Front Command said
local authorities are responsible for the issue, whereas the Interior Ministry
pointed its finger at the Welfare Ministry.
The Welfare Ministry told The
Jerusalem Post that the responsibility for the bomb shelters, including
accessibility for people with disabilities, lies with local
Lindenstrauss called on the government bodies and
authorities to work together.
“Time is short, and there is much to be
done,” added the state comptroller. “Decisionmakers must determine as soon as
possible which body is responsible for preparing local authorities for
emergencies, including authorizing all necessary resources.”
report, the state comptroller called on local authorities to formulate
procedures for dealing with emergencies, including examining the needs of the
disabled, and to file reports on how they plan to improve shelters. The Home
Front Command must also carry out frequent audit reports on shelter maintenance,
Moreover, the Home Front Command came under
fire in the report for failing to maintain data regarding the location,
condition and number of public and private bomb shelters in each municipality,
including shelters in public buildings such as schools and those in private
homes and apartment blocks.
The state comptroller said that in many local
areas there is a deficit of public and private shelters, including in schools
and other public buildings.
“As a result, hundreds of thousands of
residents of these local authorities lack emergency shelters,” Lindenstrauss
With regard to helping local authorities prepare for emergencies,
Lindenstrauss said the Home Front Command has failed to develop training
scenarios for specific threats, while NEMA has yet to devise metrics determining
municipalities’ overall home front preparedness.
The state comptroller
also blasted the Home Front Command for failing to establish procedures for
coordination between government offices, the army, local authorities and
voluntary groups in case of war and other emergency scenarios.
Interior Ministry, which Lindenstrauss emphasized is also responsible for home
front preparedness, was criticized for several failures, including failure to
maintain data regarding which local authorities conducted emergency practice
exercises in 2008-2010, and for not formulating evacuation procedures, including
a computerized system to manage contact with evacuated
Lindenstrauss noted that local authorities are unaware of how
to work with the Interior Ministry to evacuate populations and called on them to
cooperate with the ministry to establish evacuation measures. Lindenstrauss also
recommended that local authorities increase the number of volunteers prepared to
help in emergencies.
In response to the report, the Interior Ministry
said the responsibility for evacuating civilians lies with the police and the
Home Front Command, and added that it has not been granted direct powers to
prepare local authorities for emergencies or set guidelines to do so.
ministry added that its computing division is developing a new system for
managing contact with evacuated populations, expected to be ready by the end of
Lindenstrauss also criticized the Interior Ministry for failing
to allocate sufficient funds to local authorities to purchase emergency
equipment from 2004 to 2006, and added that even though the ministry’s
assistance budget doubled in 2010, local authorities did not receive enough
In response, the Interior Ministry complained of significant
budget reductions from 2004- 2008, and said the allocated budget did not even
cover its Emergency Division’s expenditures and salaries, but noted that the
Emergency Division has since prepared a three-year plan to reduce local
authorities’ budget gaps.
The state comptroller also found that 17 local
authorities – 13 of them Arab towns – lacked appropriate warehouse facilities
for emergency equipment storage, a failure which was partly attributed to the
The Interior Ministry said that there is a particular
problem in Arab municipalities with locating land on which to construct
emergency storage rooms, but noted that it is working with the Israel Lands
Authority to address the issue, and added that by 2013 all local authorities
will have emergency storage rooms.
In its response to the report, NEMA
said that Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai had personally taken
responsibility after the Second Lebanon War for home front rehabilitation, but
added that the government had yet to allocate the necessary financial resources
to properly evaluate home front preparedness.
NEMA also noted that in the
four years since its establishment, it has made recommendations – including to
establish an emergency department in all local authorities – and has also
initiated a pilot project to train civilian rescue units based in local
The authority is currently preparing a comprehensive program
to look at civil defense and protection options for Israeli cities, which it
says includes a study of public and private bomb shelters.
that since 2010, the agency has begun an administrative project with the
Interior Ministry and the Home Front Command to establish responsibilities with
regard to local authorities.
Also on Tuesday, MK Ze’ev Bielski (Kadima),
chairman of Readiness of the Home Front, a subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee, called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to
evaluate the situation.
“The State Comptroller’s Report showed severe
failures,” Bielski said, repeating a warning he issued in August. “The lessons
of the Carmel Fire have not been implemented, the Home Front is still vulnerable
and is not ready for another natural disaster or attack.”