Ashkelon wins long battle for rocket shelters

Defense Ministry 'finds' budget for shelters; 10 schools, 22 kindergartens have no facilities to offer children protection from projectiles.

ashkelon kassam damage 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy of Ashkelon Municipality [file])
ashkelon kassam damage 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy of Ashkelon Municipality [file])
A drawn-out campaign by Ashkelon's municipality and parents to erect rocket-proof shelters around schools and kindergartens in the city resulted in victory on Thursday, when the government approved the plan. "A few minutes ago, Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen informed acting mayor Shlomo Cohen that the government approved Ashkelon's protection plan," a press release from the municipality said. Ten schools and 22 kindergartens in Ashkelon have no facilities to offer children protection from incoming projectiles. Parents in the city have challenged Home Front Command assertions that areas within other educational facilities offer pupils protection. On Thursday, Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin said he was informed by Ra'anan Dinur, Director-General of the Prime Ministers Office, that a sufficient budget has been found within the Defense Ministry for the shelters, and that construction could begin immediately. "The Kassam which exploded on Saturday at the school demonstrates the importance of setting up shelters at educational facilities," Vaknin said, referring to the upgraded Kassam strike which smashed into a school and sent pieces of shrapnel into rooms which the Home Front Command had categorized as a safe area for children. "We will begin with the schools and kindergartens that have no protection facilities, and hope that the construction will be swift and free of delays, in light of the existing security situation," Vaknin added. On Monday, Ashkelon's Urban Parent Committee launched a two-day strike to keep children away from schools in response to Saturday's rocket impact. The strike was part of a three year campaign to receive approval for the shelters. "We welcome the decision by the government to take the children of Ashkelon back under their wing, and to treat them the same as other Israeli children," Rafi Sa'adon, Deputy Head of the Parent Committee, told The Jerusalem Post. "We thank Minister Cohen for his help and influence," he added. "We feel good following this decision, which we see as another step in the right direction. But make no mistake, until the shelters are actually constructed, we will continue to closely monitor progress," Sa'adon added.