“Hey, I’m Sitting in a Bomb Shelter!”

Just a few weeks ago, during my first several days in Israel this time around, I stayed at the home of an old acquaintance in the northern part of the country, in the rolling farmland hills just west of the town of Tiberias. When he would leave the house, I’d take my laptop upstairs, and set it down on his desk, roll up the computer chair and relish working at the first real work station I’d had in months. The room was sparse, with just a wardrobe and bookcase to decorate its boring white walls. Directly over the desk was a solitary square window with a thick metal cover on the outside which was open just a few inches to allow a slight view into the springtime yard beyond.

The bucolic rolling farmland hills of northern Israel, outside Tiberias

One day, a commotion ensued downstairs. This broke my concentration, so I rolled back from the desk (such a great feeling after having no desks from which to roll back for so long) and got up to shut the door to the room. As one typically does when one shuts a door, I pulled on the handle. The door moved, but not much. I pulled again. Still, the door moved toward me only approximately six inches. I must be growing weak from hunger, I thought to myself, and yanked harder on the handle. This time the door slid almost, but not quite, all the way shut. It’s not me, I now realized. This door is really, really, really heavy. Why? Then, my panting stopped and goosebumps started. This…is a bomb shelter! I realized.

Door in house in northern Israel, Givat Avni, which leads into a bomb shelter

The immovable door

It was true. I asked my Israeli friend later, and he said in previous decades community bomb shelters had been the norm, but at some point in the 1990s a law was passed which required all new structures to include their own bomb shelters. I’d been working inside of a bomb shelter for days and hadn’t even realized it.

This explained the weight of the door, probably constructed of impenetrable kryptonite or something, as well as the thick metal covering on the outside of the window, which eliminated the need for a curtain while offering protection from all manner of bombs and rockets.

37 Irosim, Givat Avni, Israel bomb shelter

The impenetrable window

Northern Israel is a very, very peaceful place usually. I’m sitting here now in my own apartment high in the hills of Tiberias, hearing nothing but birdsong and the clacking of my keyboard. But Syria and Lebanon are not far to the north, and their hatred for Israel is well known. When they bomb it, the people who are being attacked, Muslims as well as Jews, Palestinians as well as Israelis, have to run for cover. Israel is one of the tiniest countries in the Middle East, completely surrounded by huge Arab neighbors.

Do you know how many people died during the Holocaust? Some sources put the total number at eight million, while all agree that approximately six million of them were Jews. Do you know what the population of Israel is today? Approximately eight million, approximately six million of whom are Jews. I think that’s pretty chilling.

17 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Steve says:

    I know that Israel has bomb shelters, but I didn’t know that there was a law requiring new structures to have them. Even though it is unlikely that something will happen, at least you can feel somewhat safe. Plus, you get a good work station for your computer.
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  2. Sarah says:

    great article!
    I live in Israel, so I take it for granted that every home has a bomb shelter, but I definitely see how it can be shocking!!
    Glad to hear that you were still able to appreciate the beauty of this country despite the scary reality … !
    Hope you come back soon =)

  3. Candice says:

    Oh man, totally an eerie feeling, but I’m so glad to see some pictures! What a surreal experience. NBD, just working in a bomb shelter.

  4. Sabina says:

    True – I wouldn’t have had to have bought a new computer if something did happen. It would have been safer than it is sitting on my desk at home.

  5. Sabina says:

    Hi, Sarah. Thanks for reading this. I’m still here, actually. I just love it.

  6. Sabina says:

    Haha, yeah, it was so not a big deal I didn’t even know it was happening ;)

  7. RyukyuMike says:

    Good post and glad to hear you’re safe. Your apartment has one, too, right?

  8. that place is an eye opener for you. if a bomb explodes near by will you be safe in the house?
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  9. Sabina says:

    Definitely not. I’m out of there already.

  10. Dina says:

    Eerie… such a sad thing that something like bomb shelters is needed. It’s such a cool experience, but must be sad in the same time.
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  11. Sabina says:

    I’m always aware when I’m in Israel of their status as the most-hated country in the world, but, yeah, realizing I was spending hours a day sitting in a bomb shelter kind of brought that reality into an entirely different light.

  12. What a fascinating experience. I was unaware new construction must have a bomb shelter. Are the underground shelters required on private homes? Imagine, have your own concrete bunker or fallout shelter with some disco lights and good sound system.

    Thanks for the post, interesting.

  13. Sabina says:

    This was on the second floor, not underground. I was told that all new construction does require a bomb shelter. As Israel is so despised by the world and surrounded by Arab enemies who want to destroy it, I can understand why bomb shelters are not only necessary but mandatory.

  14. Fred M. says:

    Very informative article. I could never imagine how it’s like to live in Israel with all the bombing going around. We see it on TV, but to actually be in a bomb shelter is totally different.

  15. Nick Alcocer says:

    Hello Sabina, I was wondering If you could answer this question? The bomb shelters that they show being installed at schools and such with the help of United With Israel, do they just sit on top of the ground and If so, how does it help from a bomb? They don’t look like they’re made out of much…. I tried to find more information on them on the internet, but had no success. Do you know anything about them? Thanks! Nick….

  16. Sabina says:

    Hi, Fred – it’s really a unique place, Israel.

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