Make Be’er Sheva’s Public Outdoor Bomb Shelters Accessible
Public, above-ground bomb shelters (called “miguniot” in Hebrew, which typically refer to portable bomb shelters located above-ground in public outdoor areas that are readily accessible in the event of sirens, in contrast to “miklatim” that typically refer to underground shelters) were recently installed in the Nahal Beka and Nahal Ashan neighborhoods of Be’er Sheva. However, the shelters’ entrances are narrow and not accessible to handicapped individuals. Therefore, they are unsuitable for use by neighborhoods’ residents with disabilities.
The housing in these neighborhoods is predominantly made up of one-story, poorly constructed buildings that lack protective areas whatsoever. Many of the residents are recipients of public-housing support, who live in ground-floor apartments due to disabilities that limit their mobility. Residents have repeatedly reached out to a wide range of relevant authorities, requesting that the shelters be made accessible to those with disabilities, particularly those in wheelchairs. These attempts have been fruitless, forcing these residents to remain in their non-secure homes while rocket sirens sound, amid feelings of fear and helplessness.
This morning (May 19, 2021), we urgently contacted the Be’er Sheva Municipality, the Home Front Command, and the Ministry of Housing, demanding that the shelters be made accessible. In our letter, Att. Reut Shaer, Director of ACRI’s Public Hotline Unit, noted that “leaving the situation as is, with public servants continuing to shirk their responsibility to protect their constituents, is radically unacceptable. Moreover, the current situation violates residents’ basic constitutional rights to dignity and equality, as well as their rights to life and health.”
In their response, the Municipality informed us that they are working with the Home Front Command to make public spaces accessible, including access to shelters. Our work to provide a solution to protect these residents is ongoing.