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Constructed of aluminum or other metal siding with a corrugated metal roof, caravanim are often attached to cement-block bases. They are not insulated but can be outfitted with heating and air-conditioning units, water lines, recessed lighting, and floor tiling to function in a full-service capacity.
The establishment of caravanim on disputed land in Israel by Jewish activists is considered the first step toward the establishment of a settlement. In its initial stage of a few caravanim, the establishment is called an "outpost." As more settlers move in, the establishment is upgraded to the more common political term, "settlement." Alternately, caravanim have been established on disputed land in Israel by Arab activists as a sign of protest over land rights.
Caravanim are popularly employed by schools — especially in underfunded Haredi and Arab neighborhoods of Israel — that are unable to finance a permanent structure. A 2008 report by the State Comptroller of Israel reported that 125 out of 186 Haredi schools in Bnei Brak, Elad and Modi'in Illit were situated wholly or partially in caravanim. The report criticized these structures for lack of ventilation, lack of bomb shelters, and lack of proper yards or playgrounds for the children..
Many start-up congregations establish themselves in caravanim rather than permanent concrete-and-stone structures. The advantage of this system is that the caravanim can be erected on any vacant plot of land without having to deal with much red tape, and at a lower cost than construction of a regular building.
Synagogues housed in caravanim are popular fixtures at Israel army bases due to their mobility.
Caravanim are employed as housing in Israeli settlement areas by both settlers and the government.
The overnight installment of caravanim for housing is a popular means of establishing a new settler outpost on disputed land.
For Jewish families forced to leave their Gaza Strip communities as a result of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of August 2005, the government established a community of "caravillas" on the sand dunes of Nitzan. These structures were so-called to evoke a sense of spaciousness (a la "villas") in the temporary structure of caravanim.