By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & International Spokesman

Dozens of bomb shelters donated by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to Israeli communities along the Gaza border proved their worth once more in the intense three-day rocket war launched against Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror militia last weekend.

The ceasefire announced on Sunday seems to be holding and the Israeli farming villages near Gaza are trying to return to normal life, but the shelters supplied by the ICEJ are a big reason these communities are able to stay put under the constant threat of rocket attack from terrorists in Gaza. And in fact, these areas are seeing remarkable growth due to our life-saving shelters and reassuring support.

Ofir Libshtein, mayor of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, told the ICEJ Weekly Webinar on Thursday that the ten towns in his region were targeted with over 300 rockets over the three days of fighting, which meant hearing the red alert sirens hundreds of times and having to run for their safe rooms each time.

“The Iron Dome is an amazing miracle,” said Mayor Lipshtein. “We have found a solution to deal with 96% of the rockets. But because we are so close to the border, we have rockets hit before the alarm even sounds sometimes.”

“Yet you support us so much that in Sha’ar HaNegev region over the last ten years, we have grown from 5,200 to almost 10,000 people,” he added. “This is because we know we have friends all over the world like you who help us to build shelters all over the area. We feel safer. Our children can go outside knowing they can find a shelter when the rockets start. And this is a great opportunity to say thank you very much for helping us grow stronger and bigger.”

Thus, the Christian Embassy has placed dozens of mobile bomb shelters in communities in the Gaza envelope, stretching from Kerem Shalom in the south all the way up through Sderot and Ashkelon. We work in consultation with local authorities, security chiefs and social agencies to identify places where our shelters can do the most good. Thus, we have donated shelters to schools, daycare centers, medical clinics, youth centers, community halls, university campuses, factories and other public places which cannot operate during times of crisis without adequate bomb shelters.

The need for more bomb shelters in the North also has become an increasing concern, especially due to the severe lack of public shelters and Lebanon’s growing economic crisis. Thus, the Christian Embassy is increasing its efforts to assist towns in the northern Galilee and Haifa regions in protecting their most vulnerable communities. Over recent years, the ICEJ has placed 39 shelters at public places in Haifa, Akko, Kfar Maccabi, Hurfesh, Rosh Pina, Tiberias, the Zevulun region just east of Haifa, and on the Golan. The shelters are protecting not only Jewish residents, but also Arab Christian, Muslim, Druze and Bedouin communities.

“It is always so encouraging when Israelis living under this constant rocket threat tell us that our bomb shelters are indeed saving lives and giving their families the peace of mind they need to continue their daily lives in these vulnerable areas,” said ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler. “And we have seen ourselves all the new apartment buildings and neighborhoods being built in Israeli towns near Gaza. It means that the enemy wanted to chase them out, but we are helping them not only to stay but to grow larger and stronger as communities.”

Over the past 15 years, the ICEJ has donated 178 bomb shelters to Israeli communities under rocket threat, with the majority (139) placed in towns along the Gaza periphery and the remaining shelters (39) deployed in northern Israel. [See maps and chart for more details.] The vast majority have been reinforced portable bomb shelters capable of holding 10 to 50 people, while several were large underground public shelters which needed extensive repairs.

The western Negev region has received most of the ICEJ’s shelters due to the frequency of the rocket barrages coming from Gaza and the area’s close proximity to the border. Residents of towns and villages within 7-10 kilometers of the Gazan border have only 15 seconds to find shelter, and they are not protected by the Iron Dome anti-missile system – which can only track and intercept rockets with longer ranges.

And make sure to watch the ICEJ Weekly Webinar from Thursday, 11 August on “Will the Gaza Ceasefire Hold?” with special guest Ofir Libshtein, Mayor of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council. View the webinar at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwEvDl77-eQ

To make a donation towards providing more bomb shelters for Israeli communities under rocket threat, please give to our ‘Israel in Crisis’ fund via the donation button below.