Bomb shelter, rocket simulation outside Baruch
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 00:05
Baruch’s Hillel and YOFI teamed up with Artists 4 Israel and The Bomb Shelter Museum to host a mobile bomb shelter and simulated rocket attack outside Baruch College last Thursday.
The shelter sat on the back of a flatbed truck located on Lexington between 24th and 25th Aves during club hours. The installation focused on raising awareness “to what’s going on in the south cities in Israel [in an] artsy way,” according to Sgula Saidov, Jewish Agency Israeli Fellow at the Baruch Chapter of Hillel. Saidov was instrumental in bringing the #in15seconds campaign to the college.
Saidov met an artist affiliated with Artists 4 Israel at a gallery event in the city, and they soon found a way to work together on a common cause.
“We don’t want to talk about the conflict; we want to talk about the human side,” said Saidov. She explained the heart of the #in15seconds message, saying that it is focused on trying to make people think about what a short period of time 15 seconds really is.
“Once [the people] hear the red alert, they basically have 15 seconds to run to shelter,” she said, later adding, “We’re trying to attain a peaceful living situation” for Israelis in that region, one where this isn’t something they have to endure.
Natalie Solomon, the Associate Director of Special Projects for the Birthright Israel Alumni Community’s New York chapter says the intent of the mobile bomb shelter installation is two-fold.
“We’re hoping this is going to raise awareness and raise some money to help save more lives,” said Solomon.
“The organization we’re contributing to is called Operation Life Shield, and what they do is provide shelters, [which] are pretty expensive technology, to places that don’t have them,” said Solomon, comparing them to “James Bond stuff.”
When it comes to shelters in Israel, “most of them are below ground,” said Solomon, and “some of them can be huge. I’ve been in a bomb shelter that could sleep 30. The new ones that are being constructed can actually be above ground [and] can hold up to twelve adults,” she explained.
The above ground shelters of the new variety are “shaped like a bell that diffuses the force” of rocket blasts. “Unfortunately, Israel is a leader in bomb shelter and safe room construction because they’ve had to learn how to do it,” said Solomon.
Seth Wilson, the creative designer for the bomb shelter campaign, described the history of the project and how it has come to be what it is today.
“One of the artists that we brought with us to Israel was so touched by what the experience was there that she wanted to share it with everyone else. So we worked with her as an organization to conceptualize what it would be, we found a set builder who professionally builds sets […] the two of them put together the blueprints and everyone got together and built it as our project.”
The shelter’s exterior was painted a flat grey drab, with the question “Can you make it in #in15seconds?” stenciled on all four sides in black and red. Wilson explained that when they did a similar installation at Washington Square Park, they had “graffiti artists from New York painting it live as a demonstration, because that’s what we do in Israel. We paint bomb shelters.”
Though the bombs “are not coming from far away [and] you can see the border,” said Wilson, painting the shelters in bright colors won’t make them easier targets for aggressors. “When you think of a missile or a bomb here in the States, they’re GPS guided, and they hit within a [three foot] radius,” said Wilson.
But those are not the rockets that the people in southern Israel are up against. In a lot of ways, the projectiles being supplied to Hamas are even more dangerous than such smart bombs, though, because there’s really no telling where Hamas fired rockets will land, according to Wilson.
“What they’re firing from Gaza, what Hamas is using are these old Soviet rockets […] and they’re off the shoulder. [When] they go up, they land anywhere.” He later added, “people just aim them in the direction of Israel and hope [their rocket] kills someone.”
Artists 4 Israel co-founder Craig Dershowitz explained that his project-oriented, all-volunteer organization got started about three and a half years ago in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, or as it is known on the other side of the fence, the Gaza Massacre. That was when the “Israeli army went into Gaza to stop the rocket fire against [Israel]. Unfortunately,” said Dershowitz, “it’s gotten worse since then.”
The loosely organized group of activists that forms the core of 20 or so continuous participants in Artists 4 Israel originally entered the scene “by hosting an event to raise funds to send to Israel to build these bomb shelters that you’re looking at now. At that point we realized the power of art to communicate a message of peace and safety for Israel and Israeli citizens,” said Dershowitz.
After leaving Baruch College, the mobile shelter was headed on to the United Nations Headquarters, where, according to Natalie Solomon, they plan to bring “exactly the message that we’re bringing to students […] to diplomats.”
“They sit at the United Nations and they talk X, Y and Z things, and they’re talking on this crazy political level,” said Solomon. “What we want to remind them is that [when they’re talking about Israel], they’re talking about people and people’s lives.”