Our Mission and Vision
To protect children in Israel by making a philanthropic investment in school and community shelters.
We envision a future in which all of Israel’s schoolchildren and their teachers will have properly-equipped safe spaces to shelter them in times of conflict, and to gather in times of peace for school enrichment activities.
The concept for SafeSchools: Protecting Children in Israel began with a visit by three community members – Miles Sterling, Marc Spiegel and Henry Cohen – to northern Israel in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Supporters of both Jewish Federation and Jewish National Fund, Messrs. Sterling, Spiegel and Cohen recognized the tremendous impact our community made in relief, recovery and restoration during and after the war – from respite camps for children in the war zone (funded by both organizations) to emergency fire equipment funded by JNF to small business recovery loans funded by Federation. They also recognized Israel’s tremendous financial constraints, and the constant struggle of the Israeli government to provide for its defense, as well as enormous social and educational needs.
They returned to Orange County with a vision, and a plan. “We saw shelters in disrepair, shelters with asbestos ceilings, shelters lacking appropriate sanitation facilities,” said Mr. Sterling. “That’s no way for a kid to spend several hours or several days. We know the Israeli government is overwhelmed, and we believe that it’s our responsibility as individuals to act now for the sake of Israeli kids.” Mr. Spiegel noted, “Anything can happen at any time. Israel lives with this uncertainty day in and day out. We must get these shelters renovated as soon as possible – that’s why each of us has made a commitment.” And in so doing, added Mr. Cohen, “we hope to inspire other communities to follow our example.”
SafeSchools is being implemented by the partnership between Jewish Federation Orange County and the Jewish National Fund, with the expert facilitation of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Facts & Figures
There are 9,601 public bomb shelters in Israel, including schools, community centers, neighborhood shelters and government buildings.
Between 1989 and 2003, the Israeli Lottery allocated funds to public shelter renovation, and during this time, 2,343 shelters were renovated. As of 2004, these Lottery funds were reallocated to the building of school classrooms, an urgent need with Israel’s growing population that resulted in severely overcrowded classrooms.
Another 4,417 shelters have been renovated by Israel’s Interior Ministry in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the International Fellowship of Christians.
As of December 2007, 2,841 shelters were still in need of renovation. During 2008, the Jewish Agency for Israel renovated some 2,000 shelters.
Therefore, as of November 2008, 841 shelters remained in need of renovation. In June 2009, the Metzudot School shelter renovation was completed through SafeSchools, thanks to the generosity of Marc and Marlene Spiegel and Henry and Eileen Cohen of Orange County. Today, 840 shelters need renovation. In our sister city of Kiryat Malachi, renovation of a Netzach Israel School shelter is in process, thanks to Federation's Family Philanthropy Venture Fund; and renovation of the Amal School shelter will be completed through the Bat Mitzvah project of Seleen Aynehchi.
Following renovation, shelters are maintained by the entities in which they are located (schools, municipalities, etc.). These entities do not have renovation funds at their disposal, nor is there any chance they will in the near future. That’s why our help is needed TODAY.
Our Sister City: In Missile Range