Raanana will be Raanana, not 'Sharon 140'

IDF rolls out new siren system to warn more precisely of incoming attacks

Alarms based on individual towns — or neighborhoods, in some cases — as opposed to old system that operated based on larger regions

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: An Israeli family takes cover in a bomb shelter made of a converted concrete pipe during the 2014 Gaza war. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: An Israeli family takes cover in a bomb shelter made of a converted concrete pipe during the 2014 Gaza war. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

The military announced on Wednesday that it was upgrading its incoming rocket siren system throughout the country, making the alerts more precise and easier to understand.

Last month, the Israel Defense Forces conducted final tests on the new system, following several years of tests and preparations.

Under the old method, the country was broken down into approximately 255 regions. If the military detected an incoming projectile heading toward anywhere within a region, sirens would be triggered throughout the entire area.

This meant that many Israelis were sent running unnecessarily into bomb shelters, a development that ran the risk of desensitizing people to the sirens by leading them to think they likely did not apply to them, an army spokesperson said.

The new system, which will officially be rolled out at 5 p.m. Wednesday, operates based on approximately 1,700 regions, or “polygons,” as the army calls them.

This is meant to ensure that sirens are activated only in areas where there is an actual threat, ensuring both that unaffected Israelis can continue going about their daily routines and that trust in the alert system remains high, the army said.

In order to simplify the alert system, the military said it was also doing away with the confusing region-and-number system for designating areas and will instead use the names of towns and, in the case of large cities, neighborhoods.

“Raanana will be Raanana, not ‘Sharon 140,'” the army spokesperson said, referring to the central town’s previous designation.

The six geographically largest cities in Israel — Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Hadera and Ashdod — have each been broken down into four “alert zones,” the army said, so that a rocket heading toward northern Tel Aviv, for instance, doesn’t force residents of the city’s south into bomb shelters.

Rishon Lezion, Herzliya, Netanya and Ramat Gan were each divided into two alert zones, the army said.

The military directed residents of those 10 cities to visit the Home Front Command’s website (available in English) in order to determine in which “alert zone” they live.

Israeli police officers take cover after hearing warning sirens near the Israel-Gaza border on May 5, 2019. (Noam Rivkin Fenton/Flash90)

“The sounds of the sirens won’t stop at the border [of these zones], and residents of the surrounding areas should listen to them as well. The directive of the Home Front Command is: If there’s a doubt, there’s no doubt. If you hear an alert, you must take cover,” said Lt. Col. Shlomo Maman, head of the Home Front Command’s alerts department.

To better protect Israel’s Bedouin communities in the south, some of whom do not live in recognized towns, the army said it had held a number of meetings with Bedouin leaders and decided to divide the regions in which clans live.

In addition, the IDF said it was setting up sirens along roadways away from populated areas, which until now have been considered “empty” regions and thus did not get incoming rocket alerts.

Over the past nearly 30 years — since the 1991 Gulf War — the Israeli military has been working to improve its incoming rocket alert system.

Initially, sirens would sound throughout the country whenever an incoming projectile was detected, meaning people in Haifa would be forced into bomb shelters when an attack was actually directed at Tel Aviv over 90 kilometers (55 miles) away.

“The primary goal of this effort is to give alerts in a pinpointed way. At one time Israel was one alert zone, and we stopped an entire nation with one siren. This doesn’t work with the current situation,” Maman said.

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