May 17, 2007
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent
Sderot residents sitting in a bomb shelter due to
danger of incoming Qassam rockets on Wednesday. (AP)
Sderot has 58 public shelters, according to the city's security officer, 30 of which have no electricity and are uninhabitable even for a short stay.
Twenty-eight have no kitchen, refrigerator, air-conditioning or other infrastructure needed for a prolonged stay. To change the situation would require NIS 6 million.
A few steps away from the Orot Tikva ("lights of hope") shelter in Sderot is a view of the Gaza Strip, from which the Qassams are being fired. In normal times, the shelter is used as an afternoon day-care center.
A visit to the shelter on Wednesday, 24 hours after 19 Qassams were fired at the city and Sderot opened its shelters for the first time, reminds one of the Lebanon war.
Representatives of the Jewish Agency came to find out what was lacking, and an Education Ministry psychologist talked with mothers. A group of residents crowded at the entrance, shouting that there was no air in the shelter, not enough room, and they needed mattresses.
On Tuesday some residents went into the 20 shelters that were opened to the public. Even after one night, when large numbers of residents did not use the shelters, residents complained of over-crowding. If the Home Front Command declares an emergency, and all the residents of Sderot have to use the shelters, conditions will not allow for a prolonged stay.
For now, the shelters increase residents' sense of security. Yaffa Malasa, 27, has lived in Israel for 15 years. She says her house has plaster walls, not concrete, and several Qassam rockets have fallen in her neighborhood. "Last night we couldn't stand it any more," she said. "The police told us they were opening the shelter, so we came."