By Anessa V. Cohen

This week in Israel was Yom HaZikaron. This is a day of memorializing all the brave Israeli soldiers who died while trying to keep Israel safe in the many wars fought from 1948 through the present.

It culminates in a heart-stopping moment. When the memorial siren sounds throughout Israel, everything stops cold, to honor and reflect on those tragically lost during those wars. Cars stop and drivers get out of their cars, people walking in the streets stay still wherever they are, and children playing in the playgrounds line up to stand silently at attention. It is an emotional and charged scene to behold.

These wars have taken a toll on civilians and soldiers in Israel. Bombs and missiles have hit homes and caused many casualties. Unfortunately, they continue to do so for those living close to the borders.

One of the more inventive ideas that Israel has come up with in recent years in trying to protect her citizens is to create a “mamad” or “safe room” in every apartment or house newly being built. Essentially, this is a room constructed a little differently than the rest of the dwelling, with a heavy metal door and fortified walls (all according to specific safe room guidelines)–even the window in the safe room is constructed differently and seals completely tight in case of attack to protect those sitting inside.

Although I have seen many of these rooms firsthand, I never saw how they were built or what materials were used to construct them. I looked up on the internet to see what I could find to share with you. Imagine my surprise that the “mamad” or “safe room” is actually listed on Wikipedia!

“Merkhav Mugan (lit. protected space), popularly known as a mamad, is a reinforced security room required in all new buildings by Israeli law. A Merkhav Mugan is deemed preferable to a bomb shelter when the warning time is too short for residents to reach a shelter, which may be located some distance away. It also offers protection against high impact projectiles and chemical weapons.

“Security rooms are based on a 1951 civil defense law that has undergone several revisions. After Israel was attacked by Scud missiles in the Gulf War, the Israeli Home Front Command established new guidelines for civil defense. In 1992, technical specifications were drawn up for designated protected spaces in family homes. The Merkhav Mugan can withstand blast and shrapnel from conventional weapons, and offers protection against chemical and biological weapons. It has reinforced concrete walls and ceilings, 20—30 cm thick floors, and airtight steel doors and windows.”

Continuing to research, I found that the FEMA website has a 285-page book utilizing Israel’s creation of the “mamad” and offering guidelines and suggestions to Americans wishing to build one in their houses here in the United States!

As important as these rooms may be, when visiting homes in Israel with this room feature, it is more usual to see alternate uses that each homeowner has given to these rooms. They can always be used as a “mamad” in times of emergency, but for the rest of the time these are rooms with extra space to be utilized for a variety of purposes–bedrooms, storage rooms, dens, offices, etc. Definitely not what the Israeli government expected when they created this space for emergency purposes, but what’s a person to do when that great space just stares at you, looking for a multipurpose!

Let’s hope that in the future that is all that they will be necessary for–multipurpose tasking other than protection! For now, just knowing they are there makes things that much safer. v

Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker and originator with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to


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