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February 14, 2003

Devices Will Help Deaf Israelis 'Hear' War Alerts

From: Cybercast News Service - 14 Feb 2003

By Julie Stahl Jerusalem Bureau Chief
February 14, 2003

Jerusalem ( - North American Jewish communities raised more than $1 million to purchase thousands of special devices that will help hearing impaired people in Israel "hear" warning sirens and receive civil defense instructions from the Home Front Command in the event of an Iraqi missile attack on Israel.

During the last Gulf War in 1991, Israelis were warned to don their gas masks and enter their sealed rooms by sirens and radio messages, but that created a problem for the hearing impaired.

It was a "serious issue" for these people that they could not hear warning sirens or listen to information about when to leave their sealed rooms or take off their gas masks at the end of an alert, said Jeff Kaye, of the Jewish Agency's Israel Emergency Campaign (IEC).

There were stories of deaf people living in Ramat Gan (where many missiles hit in 1991) who were in buildings where missiles came down and others whose neighbors went to their doors and banged and banged, trying to alert them to an impending attack, Kaye said.

But this time if Israel is attacked things will be different.

Distributed by the Home Front Command and the Association of the Deaf in Israel, 7,059 hearing impaired Israelis have received beepers, which will enable them to "hear" announcements like everyone else.

The beepers are connected directly to the Home Front Command Headquarters and will inform the hearing impaired immediately of an impending attack or other relevant instructions.

The devices vibrate and have flashing lights and bells that alert the user that there is an incoming text message on the beeper. They are available in several different languages and were distributed regardless of race, religion or length of stay in Israel.

Because the project was beyond the budget of the civil defense establishment, officials turned to the IEC.

"We were asked to fund this by the head of the Home Front Command in September," said Kaye in a telephone interview.

The IEC then turned to the United Jewish Communities of North America, which raised $1,071,000 to purchase some 5,500 new beepers and upgrade more than 2,000 older ones.

"We believe that for this population there is a tremendous state of anxiety [but] knowing that they are no different than the rest of the society [in receiving information] removes a tremendous burden," Kaye said.

The IEC has also undertaken to raise funds for several other special citizen wartime needs, Kaye said.

Although Israeli law requires the government to provide gas masks to all its citizens, the law does not include the provision of special gas masks, he said.

The IEC has reinforced special rooms in institutions for the elderly and certain children with special needs who cannot put on a gas mask. Therefore they must be in rooms that are completely airtight with special air filter and pumping systems, Kaye said.

The IEC has also provided systems for children who live at home but have unique needs, such as those with cerebral palsy or autistic children. About 1,000 masks with special air pumping devices on them have been distributed to these children as well as about 1000 oxygen tents, he added.

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