Northern mayor offers advice to the south

Ma'alot-Tarshiha Mayor Shlomo Buhbut had a long drive ahead of him on Tuesday. He drove from his front-line community on the northern border to the war zone in the South to meet with his counterpart in Ashkelon, as well as others, and impart some of his hard-won knowledge. He toured the whole southern front last week as well. Buhbut formed the Forum of Front-Line Communities which coordinates defenses for the moshavim spread out along the border with Lebanon, which bore the brunt of Hizbullah's attacks during the Second Lebanon War two years ago. Despite a heightened level of alert for the IDF in the north and reports in the foreign press of potential Hizbullah involvement being imminent, Buhbut assured The Jerusalem Post that their defenses were much improved since the war. "The whole [northern] front line is very well prepared. We have bomb shelters, secure rooms and an action plan if we need it," Buhbut told the Post by phone from his car in between meetings. "All of the shelters in Ma'alot-Tarshiha can now be opened automatically at the touch of a button," he added. While not every community had an automated system, he said a mixture of government funds and NIS 40 million from The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews had enabled all of the communities to renovate and upgrade their shelters since the war. So far, he said, there had been no orders from the Home Front Command concerning civilians in the north, despite the fact that the IDF went on high alert earlier this week. Buhbut opined that it would be the "mistake of a lifetime" for Hizbullah and Lebanon to begin any sort of confrontation with Israel now. "I have it from very senior military sources that the policy is, in the event a missile is fired, to raze to the ground the village from which it was fired. So if they want to reduce Lebanon to piles of rubble [then they should attack]," he said. Buhbut also had some practical advice for the southern communities. "I advised them to organize a southern mayors' forum. They should create a plan and give every manager a task in the event of an emergency. "I also suggested that they split their city into quarters. That way, each quarter knows how many people there are in their area, how many elderly, how many children. They can distribute food or render assistance in their quarter," he relayed. "I also recommended that they petition the army for female soldiers to man the shelters to be able to help out. The severely handicapped should be evacuated from the cities entirely because they can't keep climbing up and down from the shelters," he continued. Finally, he suggested that the mayors demand a special budget for their expenditures during this period from the government. Several families from the South have turned to Ma'alot-Tarshiha for hospitality and the city has mobilized to take care of them. They have organized educational activities for the children and accommodations for the families.