ICEJ restores underground shelter for Yemenite community near GazaPublished on: 28.7.2022
By: Chris Chambers
Moshav Mash’en is a unique Israeli farming community located in southwest Israel, just 13 kilometers from the Gaza border. Founded by Yemenite Jewish immigrants in 1950, today it is home to just over 1,000 men, women and children. During the ‘Guardian of The Walls’ conflict with Hamas in May 2021, the medical center situated in the heart of the village had to close its doors because it lacked an adequate shelter from the flurry of rockets being fired from Gaza.
For 20 years, the community members have campaigned to repair an underground bomb shelter adjacent to the medical center to keep it open during times of crisis. At its worst state it was dark, flooded with 6-to-8 inches of water, home to wild animals, and had mold growing a meter up the walls. The stench from the mold and live fungus made it impossible to breath in there for very long.
“Things looked impossible,” said Amnon Ziv, security chief for the surrounding Hof Ashkelon region. “Should we collapse it or close it off? But we soon began to believe that nothing is impossible!”
This is because the ICEJ, through our USA office, came through with the funds to make a full restoration possible. And in mid-July, a small ICEJ delegation attended the official re-opening ceremony for the underground shelter, which also serves a nearby kindergarten and synagogue.
Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid & Aliyah, joined with other local community leaders to mount a wall plaque at the entrance to the bomb shelter. She told the gathering that, “this gift comes from Christians around the world who want to build a bridge of friendship and are happy to do their part in making your lives better. We are thrilled to be part of this beautiful project and we hope it gives you peace of mind and saves lives. May you have many happy events in this place”
Besides security officer Amnon Ziv, the head of the Hof Ashkelon region, Mayor Itamar Revivo, also was present at the dedication ceremony. They both spoke kindly about the Christian donors who had come to their aid and explained more fully the mammoth task undertaken to restore the shelter. The walls have now been secured with a moat running all around the exterior walls of the medical center to seal out water. The facility has revamped bathrooms, a kitchen area, and fully operable air conditioning. Finally, the bunker is now a comfortable space for children and family gatherings in good times, when it is not needed as a bomb shelter. In addition, the medical team also can now move into the shelter and continue operating during emergencies.
Mayor Revivo also reminded us again of the complexities of the region, saying: “You often hear news reports stating, ‘there are no casualties’, after incidences of rocket fire. However, this is never truly accurate since there are indeed very many victims. These are the ones who suffer with emotional problems and live every day in fear.”
He went on to share that those dealing with trauma and psychological problems will not heal so quickly even after medical care is given. So, having the security of a shelter nearby will enable normal life to go on and indirectly aids the recovery of those suffering from trauma.
Today, thanks to the generous support of our donors, the medical center can now operate safely. The underground bomb shelter, a refashioned work of art, also is fully available around the clock for wider community use, whether for the many children who attend the kindergarten nearby, or for the worshippers attending the local synagogue on Shabbat or for other events.
Your love and support give hope to many vulnerable Israeli citizens in need of our help. Please continue to give to the ICEJ’s ‘Israel in Crisis’ fund so we be ready to assist and save more lives in Israel’s next emergency.