Country's largest absorption center lacks sufficient bomb shelters

Shelters at Mevaseret Zion facility described as 'merely adequate.'

bomb shelter 88 (photo credit: )
bomb shelter 88
(photo credit: )
Israel's largest absorption center, which at full capacity houses 1,300 new immigrants from Ethiopia, has only eight bomb shelters and their status, at best, is merely adequate, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Information about the state of the bomb shelters at the Jewish Agency for Israel-run center in Mevaseret Zion, outside Jerusalem, was presented Sunday in a special meeting of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee. Held in the absorption center itself, the meeting included representatives from JAFI, the Mevaseret Zion local council, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and Ethiopian activist groups. "It's absurd that more than 100 people would have to cram into a bomb shelter during an emergency situation. It's just not realistic," commented Avi Masfin, spokesman for the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews, which raised the issue at the meeting. "Because these people don't make a fuss, no one is dealing with it. If we were talking about the general population, new bomb shelters and facilities would probably already have been built." Masfin said that none of the authorities working with the absorption center - the local authority, the Jewish Agency or the Immigrant Absorption Ministry - would take responsibility for improving the situation. "Everyone is passing the buck around and no one is dealing with the problems that will make these people feel part of Israeli society," he said. "We saw what happened in absorption centers in the North during last summer's conflict. They were not prepared for the war and many immigrants ended up hiding in their homes as the rockets fell. Many were wounded." "No one expected there was going to be a war in the North, and no one knows what will happen elsewhere. All areas have to be fully prepared," Masfin continued. Head of security for the Mevaseret Zion City Council, Gideon Cohen, told the Post that the bomb shelters did, in fact, meet Home Front Command standards, but admitted that those standards were "not excellent." Cohen said there was not enough shelter for the absorption center's population, but stressed that while the Mevaseret Municipality had conducted checks of the center's eight shelters, the facilities did not come under the city's auspices. According to the Home Front Command, bomb shelters are either the responsibility of the local council or the property's owners. In this case, no one seems willing to take on the task. Cohen said that the absorption center, which sits in the center of the town of 20,000 residents, was the responsibility of its owners - the Jewish Agency for Israel. "We've drafted a set of guidelines for the center's director, Amit Lior, on how to improve the condition of the shelters," said Cohen, pointing out that the state of the shelters in the absorption center was no different from those in the rest of Mevaseret Zion or Israel in general. "In Mevaseret itself, there are only 22 public bomb shelters for the roughly 8,800 residents who do not have private shelters in their homes," he said. A spokesman for the Jewish Agency told the Post that while the organization was responsible for caring for the immigrants, the physical infrastructure fell under the responsibility of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry. A ministry spokeswoman denied that maintaining shelters was the responsibility of the ministry, saying rather that the issue was in the hands of the local city council. The ministry was aware of the problem, she said, and involved in discussions with city representatives to find a viable solution.•