Abigail Klein Leichman
January 11

A walking tour of bomb shelters is certainly not a usual tourist activity, but then again, Holon isn’t a usual city.

This coastal municipality south of Tel Aviv was transformed in 1993 into Israel’s “Children’s City” boasting a magnificent children’s museum complex, children’s library, and other kid-friendly spaces – including about three dozen “story parks” themed to beloved children’s books.

Unfortunately, Holon’s proximity to the Gaza Strip makes public bomb shelters a necessity. But they need not look grim and uninviting.

Artist Rinat Luk Elhaik collaborated with Holon’s Security Department and Culture and Arts Department in a project to paint the city’s 23 public shelters as an extension to the story parks. Each is designed in the style of a popular work of Israeli children’s literature.

The Bunker, a Holon bomb shelter decorated in a children’s story theme. Photo by Sergio Starodubtsev
The Bunker, a Holon bomb shelter decorated in a children’s story theme. Photo by Sergio Starodubtsev

They decided to create walking tours of the painted shelters. There are three routes, each with a different degree of difficulty so that even parents with tots in strollers can take part. 

This public bomb shelter in Holon is painted to fit in with the upbeat nature of the workout apparatus in the park. Photo by Sergio Starodubtsev
This public bomb shelter in Holon is painted to fit in with the upbeat nature of the workout apparatus in the park. Photo by Sergio Starodubtsev

QR codes on each shelter will reveal more information about the book it’s designed to evoke. Within each story and in the link to it, a certain social value will be emphasized, such as mutual respect, acceptance of difference, brotherhood, kindness and helping others.

Artist Rinat Lok Elhaik made this public bomb shelter in Holon look like a cozy house.
Artist Rinat Lok Elhaik made this public bomb shelter in Holon look like a cozy house.

“These days, when every drop of color can make the human heart happy and encouraged, the painting tour project proves that even a protected space can become a work of social-environmental art,” said Elhaik.

This bright blue bomb shelter in Holon doubles as a clubhouse for the Jesse Cohen chapter of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement.
This bright blue bomb shelter in Holon doubles as a clubhouse for the Jesse Cohen chapter of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement.

She said she wanted to make the shelters colorful, comforting and relaxing, perhaps even lovely enough to make people smile. 

This bomb shelter in Holon manages to have a homey look thanks to artist Rinat Luk Elhaim. Photo by Sergio Starodubtsev
This bomb shelter in Holon manages to have a homey look thanks to artist Rinat Luk Elhaim. Photo by Sergio Starodubtsev

“I create physical changes in public spaces using what is available: the budget that is available, the materials that are available and the time that is available — and a lot of imagination. Sometimes I do this with the cooperation of the community that lives there and I am very happy about the cooperation with the city of Holon and hope that the residents will find joy looking at these painted shelters.”

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