Israel’s North on Edge and in Need of SheltersPublished on: 8.8.2023
By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
Israel’s sharp divide over judicial reforms has Iran and its regional proxy militias thinking the Jewish state is weak and exposed. This has led Hizbullah to stage a recent series of open provocations along the Lebanon border that were met with tepid responses by Jerusalem. While no one is seeking a major war right now, even the smallest misstep could easily trigger an escalation, prompting officials in northern Israel to rush to provide more bomb shelters for their vulnerable communities.
Israel’s sworn enemies have watched over recent months as thousands of IDF reservists protested the government’s proposed judicial reforms by refusing to serve their annual reserve duty. The protests could impact the Israeli army’s preparedness for a major conflict with Iran. In response, Iranian and Hizbullah leaders have openly taunted Israel as a nation on its way down.
This is a serious misread of Israel’s military strength and national resolve. Nonetheless, Hizbullah has felt emboldened to test Israel’s readiness for a fight by conducting provocative actions in plain sight along the UN-demarcated ‘Blue Line’ between Israel and Lebanon.
First, Hizbullah set up tents on Israel’s side of the border but north of its security fence. A group of armed Hizbullah militiamen in combat uniform also marched right along the border fence. In addition, Hizbullah operatives climbed a tower on the border fence and carted off Israeli surveillance equipment. Finally, the radical Shi’ite militia fired a tank shell into an open area in the disputed Mount Dov sector.
These actions mark a shift by Iran and Hizbullah in their “shadow war” with Israel. Until now, they mainly carried out covert operations along the border, such as digging terror tunnels under the security fence. In contrast, they are now openly baiting Israel to retaliate, leaving northern Israel on edge.
The IDF did send a strong signal that it is battle-ready by staging a major military exercise in the North which even simulated a large ground incursion deep into Lebanon to neutralise Hizbullah.
Meanwhile, towns and villages in northern Israel are rushing to bolster their civilian defenses by upgrading and adding bomb shelters. Recent studies show the North sorely lacks adequate shelters for its growing population, especially given Hizbullah’s arsenal of over 200,000 rockets and missiles.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem became aware of this need several years ago and has been working to supply portable bomb shelters to these vulnerable areas. Over the past decade, the ICEJ has donated nearly 200 mobile bomb shelters to vulnerable Israeli communities, with most going to towns along the Gaza border facing frequent Hamas rocket attacks, but we have managed to place some 50 shelters in northern Israel already.
Thanks to the generosity of a Swiss Christian family, we are currently delivering six new bomb shelters to the town of Shlomi, which was struck by a rocket fired from southern Lebanon on the first day of Passover. The rocket landed in a busy intersection – with a bank, a synagogue, a store and a law firm on each corner.
A town of 9,000 residents which borders Lebanon, Shlomi has suffered its share of rocket attacks over recent decades. But city officials say the town is not prepared for what is likely to come in a future war with Hizbullah. Rocket alarms in Shlomi often give only 2-to-3 seconds of warning of incoming short-range mortars. Half the residents still live in the “old city” of Shlomi, which has no shelters. The government has promised hundreds of millions of shekels for shelters in the North, but very little has come so far.
The ICEJ’s newest shelters are being placed in public areas to serve the whole community, such as playgrounds, synagogues and at bus stops.
In addition, ICEJ-USA is providing funds to refurbish 53 existing underground shelters in Shlomi. The work will involve sealing water leaks, fixing faulty electrical networks, installing new lighting, water pumps, drainage systems, and fans for improved ventilation, applying fresh coats of paint, and much more.
Please help us provide more bomb shelters for communities in northern Israel through our Israel in Crisis fund. Donate today at: https://give.icej.org/crisis
Photo Credit: AP.