The many Hebrew words for ‘bomb shelter’

Our 'mamad' or in-home bomb shelter
Our 'mamad' or in-home bomb shelter

You know how the Inuit have dozens of words for snow?

When I wrote my last post, I realized that in English I was using the term ‘bomb shelter’ for various Hebrew words – mamad, miklat, merhav mugan, migunit, etc. All slightly different. One is a reinforced room in a private home. One is more of an underground bunker and is communal. Another is a safe space in a public area such as a mall. Another is a stand alone unit that can be crane lifted and placed in an outdoor space lacking safety, and so on.

Language and culture reflect our reality. The reality is that in Israel, we have been under fire since the day the state was established. It guides so much of our decision making.

After living through two military operations without a mamad (safe room IN the home/apt), we decided to move away from our dear English speaking community to a newer neighborhood where we would have one. When we decided which rooms our kids would sleep in, we intentionally chose to put three of our four kids in the protected space.

When we decided where to send our kids to school, we chose the place with the best teachers and curriculum. 5 weeks into the war, and I’m wondering if we should have also considered which had the newest buildings and most bomb shelters. The school down the street has school every day, yet my poor son hasn’t gone back yet due to lack of bomb shelters. My girls’ school is also unsafe, though they’ve taken over some rooms at a local high school so the younger kids can go once or twice a week for a drop of normalcy.

We are extraordinarily lucky that we have these safe spaces. I know many don’t. I am grateful for them. And yet, when my 6 year old daughter asked me if I also slept in the mamad growing up back in America, my heart broke into pieces.


About the Author
Menucha Mackenzie Saitowitz earned her degree in psychology and religion from Dartmouth University in 2010. Since making Aliyah in 2011, She has worked to develop Israel's periphery, with an emphasis on the South. She loves that she and her husband are raising their 4 sabras in Be'er Sheva, the heart of the Negev. Menucha is passionate about bringing Jews and Arabs together. She is currently studying for her MA in Religious and Middle Eastern Politics at Bar Ilan University.