Abandoned Israeli military bunker outside of Jericho in the West Bank. (Adam Reynolds)

Air filtration system at the Sammy Ofer Emergency Underground Hospital, Tel Aviv. (Adam Reynolds)

In 1951, three years after the State of Israel declared its independence, the country instituted a civil defense law requiring all homes, residential buildings and offices to be equipped with shelters or “safe rooms”.

Documentary photographer Adam Reynolds has been photographing in the Middle East since 2007. In 2014, he began documenting the myriad bomb shelters that have become ubiquitous throughout Israel in a series titled “Architecture of An Existential Threat.”

“These shelters are the architecture of an existential threat – both real and perceived,” Reynolds said. “In them can be seen Israel’s resiliency as a nation, and its inability to come to terms with itself and with its neighbors in a volatile region.”

The shelters come in all shapes and sizes. Along with the more conventional below-ground bomb shelters, there are underground parking garages that can be converted into nuclear-proof bomb shelters and hospitals able to accommodate thousands. Entire schools are encased in reinforced concrete with blast-proof windows, and small, one-room “mamads” or “safe rooms” in private residences are meant to withstand rockets and unconventional weapons attack. Many of the bomb shelters have been re-purposed for broader uses like dance studios, community centers, pubs, mosques, and synagogues.


Public bomb shelter, Haifa. (Adam Reynolds)

Youth activity center/public bomb shelter, Kiryat Shmona. (Adam Reynolds)

Mosque/bomb shelter at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. (Adam Reynolds)

Office of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality/public bomb shelter, Beer Sheva. (Adam Reynolds)

Student rec room/bomb shelter, University of Haifa. (Adam Reynolds)

Reinforced ‘safe area’ conference room in the Knesset, Jerusalem. (Adam Reynolds)

Home cosmetics studio inside of a ‘mamad’ safe room, Gedera. (Adam Reynolds)

Fitness gym/public bomb shelter, Modi’in. (Adam Reynolds)

Second-hand trade-in shop/bomb shelter, Kibbutz Harel. (Adam Reynolds)

Reinforced classroom in a secondary school designed to withstand rocket attack, Sderot. (Adam Reynolds)