Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Turning Point 5 - Israel Home Front defense exercise this week

Map from the Israeli Home Front Command -  length of time before one has to enter a protected space after hearing a siren warning of missile attacks.

This week, the Israeli home front command is conducting a week-long national defense exercise to prepare to respond to a possible war against Israel conducted largely by missile strikes. "This week Turning Point 5, the annual home front defense exercise, will begin, the fifth such drill since the Second Lebanon War, which was marked as a turning point in the government's attitude toward the civilian front." Thousands of missiles fell in the northern part of the country (launched by Hezbollah in Lebanon) during the Second Lebanon War, and it became clear that civilians were not adequately protected against missile attack.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. sirens will sound across the whole country, and everyone is supposed to go immediately to the closest protected area and wait for several minutes. I asked a friend earlier tonight (who lives in the same apartment building where I'm staying) what I should do when the siren sounds. She said - look around and see what the people around you are doing, and follow them. Her daughter also asked her what to when the sirens sound - in particular, where to go to shelter herself. If I'm at home in the morning (rather than in the National Library, where I've been doing research), there really is no place to go - there's no bomb shelter attached to this apartment building, and apparently the shelter across the street (Elazar ha-Modai) is locked, and in any case it's usually used as a sports club (as many of the shelters around the city are used for a variety of purposes - there's one on Yohanan ben Zakkai St. that has a synagogue in it).

The English website for the Home Front Command (available also in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian) provides the map above of the length of time one has to reach a shelter before the missiles land. Jerusalem, apparently, enjoys the longest time of warning - three minutes.

The English website, however, has no information about this week's defense exercise - for that you need to go to the Hebrew site. The Hebrew website has a short video explaining what to do. There's also a video in Arabic.

Today I went to the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University (to meet a couple of people). On my way back, I took a bus to the Damascus Gate and went to the Old City. I left via the Jaffa Gate, and walked along Mamilla Street (recently restored - it was left a ruin after the 1948 war for several decades, even after the reuniting of the city under Israeli rule in 1967). I kept seeing signs pointing to the מרחב המוגן. I had no idea what these words meant - there was no explanation. The Home Front Command site in Hebrew solved the mystery - the words mean "protected space." The signs were pointing to where people visiting the pedestrian mall and shops should go to when the sirens sound tomorrow.

It will be interesting to see if people pay attention to the exercise - will they go to the closest protected area, or will they simply go about their normal business? Stay tuned for my report!

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