Two years after war, readiness in the North remains debatable

Safed city spokesman: Government has transferred funding but it's not enough.

bobm shelter in nahariya (photo credit: AP)
bobm shelter in nahariya
(photo credit: AP)
Two years after the Second Lebanon War, in which thousands of Hizbullah rockets pounded the North, two major cities in the region are painting vastly different pictures of preparedness if the same reality were to strike again today. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Haifa was probably the most prepared city for another scenario like the Second Lebanon War, which broke out on July 12, 2006. "All the city's public bomb shelters are ready and prepared, and we're in the course of building 1,000 fortified rooms in private apartment buildings. With money received from donations, we have uploaded the entire school system to the Internet, so if a war breaks out again, pupils will be able to continue their school routine from home." Yahav told the Post that the city's mobile war room had also been upgraded and social programs had been established to meet the needs of various populations in the city in case of an emergency. The mayor also explained that all of the money promised by the government for rehabilitation of houses and infrastructure had been transferred to the city and its residents, except for NIS 30 million from the Tourism Ministry for development of the city's tourist attractions. That money was delayed, but is expected soon. "Three months after the war, all the ruined and damaged houses were repaired and in good, livable shape, except for the houses of the residents from the [Arab] neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas," Yahav said. "But in the next few weeks, they are due to enter newly built homes that were built with the government's money." To the northeast, however, Safed city spokesman Moshe Tochana said that not one new bomb shelter had been built since the war ended in 2006. "It's partly because Safed is an ancient city and the old city wasn't built with bomb shelters," Tochana explained. "But we haven't received all of the money that was earmarked for us from the government, and there is a shortage of bomb shelters in the city." Tochana said the bulk of the repair work in the city after the war had been done by volunteers from America - specifically from New York and Palm Beach, Florida - who came to assist northern residents in their efforts to rebuild. "They did amazing work," he said of the young Americans who helped repair damaged homes and upgrade old shelters. "The government on the other hand, has only made minimal repairs. They've fixed electric services, water, but these are things they had to do anyway. The road to the hospital was repaired after the war, but it needed work for years. So what does that mean, it takes a war to get the road to the hospital fixed?" The Prime Minister's Office categorically rejected Tochana's remarks, saying that the government had been helping northern communities since the start of the war. "We allocated NIS 2.75 billion for the northern communities, which is a huge amount," said Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev. "That money has been transferred to the communities. It's already been done." Tochana admitted that the government had, in fact, transferred funding to Safed, but he stressed that it wasn't enough and that much of the financing for repairs had come from donors in America and other locations abroad. Still, regarding the readiness of his city if another war were to break out, Tochana said he was relying on the spirit of the city's residents, not the government. "Safed is a city with a lot of faith," he said. "It's one of the holiest cities in Israel. We have a civilian network in place to deal with situations that might arise, and I believe the residents of Safed will be able to pull themselves through."