Bomb shelters in Israel are as old as the country itself, with many dating back to 1948. Many additional shelters were built during the 1950s in the tenuous years following the declaration of the state. These shelters were entirely of the subterranean type, which are larger than those found attached to buildings, and are dispersed around the country.
As the population of Israel grew and spread out, and as the politics of the region changed, the role of bomb shelters changed as well. Since the Six Day War, residents of the North have been threatened by Katyusha rockets from Lebanon. Underground bomb shelters were too far away to provide adequate coverage from attacks on short notice. In response to the changing nature of warfare, the policy of bomb shelters was changed as well, prompting the strategy change in 1970, whereby shelters attached to residential buildings were deemed preferable to standalone public shelters. Tel Aviv's pre-1970 public bomb shelters seem like quaint relics of Israeli history, like the British "pillbox" guard towers that are scattered throughout the country.
In 1991, the government again adjusted its bomb shelter regulations, this time in response to threats of chemical and biological warfare from former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Tamar Kievel, of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, pointed out in a paper entitled "Structural Blast Design" that after the first Gulf War, "people were required to have protected spaces within every home, office and public space. The windows had to be able to be sealed around the edges, and doors would have a wet towel placed at the bottom. The room also had to be blast proof so that in an attack cracked walls and windows would not allow poisonous gas to seep in."
Tel Aviv, like other cities in the country, began the slow process of bringing existing shelters in line with the new policy, a process that is still underway and includes retrofitting some of the existing structures with appropriate installations, as well as stocking them with supplies like gas masks and air filters. Even then, only in 2001 did the government officially mandate that all new buildings must have a shelter that is equipped to protect against both conventional and non-conventional warfare.
The 2001 mandate created a new wave of thinking about bomb shelters and the buildings that house them. Shuki Einstein, internationally recognized security architect, pointed out in his paper "Building Threat Mitigation in a Highly Vulnerable Society" (2003), that Israeli designers and architects have had to incorporate the mandate into their plans, finding a balance between quality of life, usage, aesthetics and blast protection. A good recent example is the building for the Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv University. The building was completed in 2004 and is the newest on campus. From the outside, and even from the inside, one barely notices the multi-story bomb shelter.
The science of miklatim will likely continue to progress with the evolution of warfare and military needs. It is to be hoped that the government remains aware of the steps that are needed to equip bomb shelters to handle the latest threats.
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