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Jewish Journal

High-tech company offers portable solutions for Israel’s shelter shortage

by Orit Arfa

May 24, 2007 | 8:00 pm


Click on the BIG ARROW for Orit Arfa's video showing the inside of the portable shelter
On May 20, Operation LifeShield, a nonprofit organization founded to provide emergency relief from missile attacks in Israel, unveiled in Jerusalem its transportable bomb shelters, dubbed "LifeShields," for use in public areas such as parks, school, playgrounds, hospitals and busy intersections.

Each shelter is made of 12-inch-thick steel-reinforced concrete, is large enough to accommodate 30 people and is built to withstand direct hits from both Qassam and Katyusha rockets.

With the recent onslaught of Qassam missiles into the western Negev and predictions of another conflict in northern Israel, Josh Adler and Shep Alster, both Israeli Americans, founded Operation LifeShield in hopes that the portable shelters will provide some solution to the scarcity of adequate shelters in Israel, offering both physical and psychological cover. LifeShields are the only portable bomb shelters of their kind in Israel and can be transported and deployed as needed.

"We saw the overall general problem of shelter in Israel, the lack of shelters, their stuffiness and the poor conditions of the shelters," said Adler, who, with Alster, conceived the idea while volunteering in northern Israel last summer during the Second Lebanon War.

"Worse than that, if you want to have a routine and live an everyday life, you have to get out of the shelters," Adler said. "You need to go to the park, the playground, shop and get some air."

Adler, a contractor and construction supervisor by profession, put on hold plans to build vacation homes in northern Israel to focus instead on building the portable shelters, which he viewed as a national and Jewish mission.

The factory in Bet She'an in northern Israel has already constructed more than 20 shelters. Each takes about two weeks to build. They were designed according to specifications set by the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command and have received its stamp of approval.

Operation LifeShield is seeking funding for the shelters from Jewish communities abroad. Each shelter costs $36,000, including delivery costs. Each shelter weighs 42 tons and must be transported on truck and installed with a crane.

Three shelters are already stationed in Safed, Karmiel and Alma, and LifeShield has received dozens of requests from regional councils and municipal offices. A fourth shelter was installed May 20 at the Kalanit nursery school in Sderot, near a house recently struck by a rocket.

Sderot residents are usually given just 10 to 30 seconds advance notice before a missile falls. A drill conducted after the installation found that it took about 18 seconds for children to leave the nursery and enter the shelter.

Shmuel Bowman, spokesperson for Operation LifeShield, will speak on Saturday, May 26, at 7:30 pm. at Young Israel of Century City, 9317 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 691-3901.

lifeshield portable bomb shelter
A shelter being installed May 20 at the Kalanit nursery school in Sderot, near a house recently struck by a rocket.

Click here to make a donation to the Israel Emergency Fund for Sderot

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