Samaria (Shomron) - Place of Refuge for Israelis in Times of War

By Michael Gottlieb
November 30, 2010

When one considers that well over half of Israel's households and infrastructure are squeezed into the narrow coastal strip, it should be obvious that this represents a frightful strategic threat in times of war. The tiny Tel Aviv District alone, a mere 176 sq. km. in size, is home to more than 1.2 million Israeli Jews, over 20% of the country's Jewish population! The larger Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area (Gush Dan), which includes the Tel Aviv and Central Districts, has nearly 2.9 million Israeli Jews, over half of Israel's total. Such an over concentration of civilians makes for an irresistible target for our enemies. Hizballah, which has de facto control of Southern Lebanon, possess tens of thousands of rockets, all aimed at Israel's main cities, infrastructure and military installations. The 2006 Second Lebanon war, during which thousands of Hizballah rockets slammed into Israel, may prove to be only a taste of what is to come.

Today Hizballah openly threatens the Greater Tel Aviv area and beyond with their missile arsenal. To where would the Israeli population flee if fired upon again? During 2006, the bomb shelters up north, an area much less densely populated than the center, proved woefully inadequate. Can we assume that the shelter infrastructure is any better in Israel's center? Can Israelis really rely on the Home Front's level of preparedness at the moment they need it most? How will they handle a chemical weapon attack, considering that most Israelis don't even have an updated gas mask? According to those in the know, the only nearby safe haven is the Shomron.

Here are two excerpts from Arutz-7, an Israeli online news source:

1.(March 10, 2010) Emergency Refuge for the Central Region

( The IDF has taken a second look at the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, with an eye towards their use in wartime, specifically as a refuge site. During a recent military exercise conducted by the IDF Central Command, top brass looked at the option of moving Israel's population in an emergency from the central region to communities in Judea and Samaria. So says Avi Roeh, head of the Binyamin Regional Council. Roeh told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news magazine this week the IDF had discussed the possibility with the Binyamin Council, which explored the option with the communities themselves. “We found that within the settlements there are warm and good people who are ready and willing to take in fellow citizens," he said. “The state, Home Front Command and the National Emergency Authority understand that such an absorption process would be part of the preparation for evacuation of large communities,” Roeh added. Roeh noted that thousands of families could be involved in such a move, though he did not give specific numbers.

2.(March 25, 2010) Samaria to Shelter Jews in Case of Chemical War, Drill Shows

( In case of a war involving the possible use of chemical warheads, communities in Samaria could serve as a refuge for citizens escaping Israel's coastal plain and other regions, a new element in the ongoing national war drill shows. This year's drill is the first to include practice of a plan for mass evacuation of citizens from areas under missile attack to the relative safety of the Biblical heartland.
Home Front Commander Major General Yair Golan has prepared a plan for evacuation of Israelis to Samaria in case of unconventional war, and has circulated it to senior officers in the General Staff and to high ranking defense officials. “The phenomenon of internal refugees will grow in the next war,” Golan predicted. The Home Front plan calls for coordination between the IDF and the Samaria communities. The plan will be rehearsed later this week.

One reason for evacuating citizens to Samaria in case of chemical attack is that the altitudes there are higher than in the coastal plain. The poison gas emitted by chemical warheads begins to sink when it enters the air, accumulating in the lower altitudes. Another is the fact that Samaria is not as heavily populated as the coastal area: the density of the population in the coastal cities makes it a more devastating target for the enemy to hit. A third consideration referred to is that Samaria is heavily dotted with Arab villages and cities and that a chemical attack on Samaria would necessarily hurt the Arabs too – a presumably unwanted outcome for Muslim aggressors.

The Home Front plan may or may not have been based on a plan presented last year by Samaria Local Authority Head Gershon Mesika, for evacuation of about half a million Israelis to Samaria in case of war, and their temporary absorption there. The plan included the hosting of families fleeing the coastal area in Samaria families' homes; the construction of massive “tent cities” in young communities that are often referred to as 'outposts.'

"Samaria is the heart of the country,” Mesika explained. “Besides our natural right to the Land of Israel, Samaria is of vital security importance to the state, especially in the face of unconventional missiles.”

"Residents of Samaria are used hosting the residents of bombarded cities from Israel's outlying regions,” he said. “We did so in the [1991] Gulf War, in the Second Lebanon War [2006] and during Cast Lead [2008-9], and we will do so in a greater emergency as well, like the one the State of Israel is rehearsing for tomorrow.”

"Samaria is the correct response to the unconventional weapons threat and to threats from Iran,” Mesika added.

While Judea and Samaria are often portrayed and perceived as a relatively dangerous area for Jews, mostly because of rock attacks on motorists and the presence of a large PA population, the IDF drill appears to show that the area is potentially much safer in case of unconventional war.

For more information about Samaria, see the SHOMRON CENTRAL blog here:


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