Project Resilience

Tzfat in July 2006

In July of 2006, the North of Israel was suddenly attacked by the Hezbollah (the party of God) in Lebanon. Two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, and throughout the following month, as the Israeli army battled the Hezbollah, thousands of katyusha rockets rained down on Israel's northern cities, towns and villages.

The Home Front Command of the army set up their command base at the Livnot U'Lehibanot campus in the Old City of Tzfat. Reasoning that the dorm rooms, offices, and most importantly, underground rooms (the Livnot campus is made up of rooms which are several hundred years old, and which have been buried under the ground by earthquakes and new buildings built on top of them - Livnot digs out the old rooms and makes them into modern dorm rooms) would afford the officers a good opportunity to work efficiently and safely, they quickly organized to begin providing essential services to the Tzfat residents who were unable to leave the area.

Mobilizing Volunteers

The two main activities which took place during this time were:

  1. Renovation of bomb shelters 

  2. Providing social services to elderly and disabled residents who couldn't get out of their apartments and whose caretakers had left.

Daily, lists of residents needing help would arrive at the Livnot office, and volunteers, who had arrived from throughout the world, would fan out throughout the city to bring these people food and other necessities, clean their homes, and sometimes even bath them.

The second activity involved the bomb shelters of the city. Israeli law states that all residential buildings must have a bomb shelter built in them. However, there is no law which details how these shelters are to be kept up, and most of the shelters hadn't been opened since they were built, decades ago. When the war broke out, people entered their neighborhood shelters and found them to be lacking in plumbing and electricity, dark and damp, and often infested with insects and other creatures. These were the shelters that people were supposed to sit in with their families, while waiting out the war.

Together with volunteers, the Livnot professional staff made the rounds from shelter to shelter, connecting plumbing and electricity lines, and helping the residents to make them as livable as possible.

Thinking Ahead

After the war, Project Resilience was born. With generous donations from the New York and Palm Beach Jewish Federations and individual donors, Livnot started programs aimed at renovating shelters throughout Tzfat, Hatzor and Kiryat Shmoneh.

With program participants and volunteers, the LIvnot staff was increased, and while they did the work of plumbing, electrical work, tiling, and other professional tasks, volunteers painted them. Many of these shelters were renovated as dual-purpose shelters, so that in times of peace, they would be available to the neighborhood residents as clubhouses for youth, playrooms for young children, handicrafts centers for the elderly, and after-school meeting rooms for school kids.

The biggest change is the attitude of the residents of the neighborhoods where these shelters have been renovated. "We're ready" said one woman, who sat out the 2006 conflict in her apartment with her children, watching the rockets land throughout the city. "I'm not afraid anymore"