The Karmiel Municipality was a beehive of activity on Monday as workers carted huge boxes with television sets into a building housing the city's Community Services Authority, while others piled children's games, food and bottles of mineral water into cartons destined for the city's bomb shelters.
Downstairs, in what is known as the "war room," Mayor Adi Eldar was holding his regular morning meeting to discuss with the heads of the municipal departments the events of the past 24 hours and the plans for the coming ones.
Monday was a big day for the elderly of Karmiel. It marked the first time since the fighting erupted two weeks ago that they were going to receive hot meals from the city. Until now, they have been given only boxed food.
Actually, according to Hanna Koval, the municipal director-general, the standard of living of underground Karmiel has improved markedly since the crisis began.
Karmiel, which in the good old days was considered far from the northern border, had never been under rocket attack before. When the fighting started, municipal officials and volunteers fanned out through the city of 50,000 to make certain that its dozens of public, neighborhood and large private shelters were operational. In some cases it meant unlocking them; in others, cleaning them up and solving the basic problems like electricity and water supplies.
In Stage 2, the city began to provide basic equipment to make life in the shelters manageable. This included mattresses, chairs, fans and air conditioners, emergency lighting and radios. The third stage addressed the quality of life of the shelter dwellers, especially the children. Thanks in part to private donations, the city began to provide games for the children.
Indeed, on the ground floor above the war room, a delegation of senior Bank Leumi officials, who have their own workers' committee, had just brought a supply of puzzles and other educational games involving arithmetic, recognition of letters and colors, and thinking games for children between the ages of three and seven. The head of the committee, Danny Baruch Max, said the group was also heading for other towns in the North, including Peki'in and Tiberias, and had made a point of coming in person.
Meanwhile, Bank Hapoalim and Hadassah-Israel purchased the TV sets that are being distributed to the shelters. More are on the way from other donors, said Shula Menahem, head of Karmiel's Community Services Authority.
The city has also provided boxed meals for some of the
According to Eldar, up to 20,000 people have left Karmiel since the rockets started falling. Eldar is pleased that those who have nothing to do in the city have headed south.
"Karmiel does not have to provide cannon fodder for Nasrallah," he told The Jerusalem Post. "We are not in a situation where we have to defend the city. The war is being fought in Lebanon."
But Eldar stressed that he was not encouraging those who had vital jobs to leave, only those with no work or with small children. "Why should a child be traumatized if we can prevent it?" he said.
Despite the exodus, the city is looking after 2,000 residents with special needs, including some of the elderly, single-parent families and immigrants from Ethiopia.
So far, 41 rockets have fallen on the city and the open area around it, and three people have been killed.
According to Menahem, there have not been many cases of emotional breakdown in the city so far. "People are preoccupied with looking after their physical needs," she said.
Nonetheless, the Home Front has announced it was establishing centers in six northern communities to handle cases of anxiety, including one in Karmiel, which is due to open on Tuesday.