As Operation Pillar of Defense continues, citizens in southern Israel and beyond are still living under attack from rocket fire. In the South, schools remain closed and in Tel Aviv, many have chosen to work from home or nearby cafes. Following are just some of the initiatives underway by global organizations and funders.
With schools in the south closed, World ORT in Israel has been in contact with several principals of its affiliated schools in the north, who are ready to host over 300 children a day from the south, pending approval from the municipalities and security authorities.
“Those living in the south are very much in need of even a brief respite from the stress of rocket fire and we have received some emotional accounts of their experiences”, said Avi Ganon, World ORT Representative in Israel.
Ido Homri, a sixteen year old student at World ORT’s affiliated Shikma High School in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai said: “In the last few days we have found ourselves running every few minutes to the protected space of the bomb shelter.”
“I can not describe the feeling of fear that takes over me, my little sister and brother during the sirens and as the rocket falls. As we run to the shelter, we pray that everything will go peacefully”, he said.
Homri described the ambivalent atmosphere in his family: “on the one hand we are ready to sacrifice our quiet temporarily in favor of the military operation so that finally, we can live like every boy and girl in the world with peace, joy and worry-free security, including dealing with teenage problems and not with daily alarms and rocket hits. On the other hand my family members have been recruited to reserve duty and may at any time enter Gaza for a military ground operation. So we care about them and their safety.”
Hodaya Sadon, an eleventh grader at Shikma High School had this to say: “We decided to stay in our home [Moshav B Hadar] because my brother joined the army and because of my mother’s work. My mother didn’t want me to stay alone while she is working so I invited some friends. My room is the protected area so I do not need to run every time there is an alarm. These explosions are really strong. I’m supposed to be studying for a test in history but can’t concentrate. I’m really under pressure… I spoke with my teacher earlier today and she reassured me and made me feel much better. She explained that no exams are to take place this week until the conflict is resolved.”
Ofra Halperin, principal of the Shikma High School emphasized the importance of the school being in touch with its students at this time.
“The teachers are constantly in touch with students and thinking all the time about how to provide strength to the students. The intention is now to start learning to work with different measures intended specifically for students who are supposed to matriculate this year”, Halperin said.
Karin, mother of three and one of the teachers at Shikma High School echoed the importance of remaining in touch with her students, who she is in contact with every day.
“Unfortunately my children are accustomed to this reality, but the last few days have been very difficult because we couldn’t get away from the shelter”, she said.
World ORT has arranged for Shikma High School in Hof Ashkelon and Nofei Habsor High School in Eshkol, to have access to e-Teacher, the online educational platform for distance learning normally used to provide lessons to hospitalized children through the World ORT Kadima Mada – Kav-Or program.
World ORT will also be providing Shaar HaNegev Regional High School, and Meikif Aleph High School in Beer Sheva, with laptop computers and resources in order to facilitate distance-learning in these schools.
Arele Rotstein, principal of Shaar HaNegev Regional High School said that all their students have the option of participating in distance-learning classes.
“On Wednesday night we had to evacuate three hundred children from the school. There was no transportation, the war had started and there was great anxiety”, Rotstein said.
When we spoke with him he was on his way to visit some of his students to see how they were dealing with the situation.
World ORT has also been in contact with the regional educational authority in the south and has offered assistance.
“They were very appreciative and said they will be in touch in the next 24 hours to formalize a request”, said Avi Ganon.
Schusterman Foundation Israel
Schusterman Foundation Israel heads down South later this week with a group of musicians, actors, jugglers, painters, art teachers and other entertainers who will be performing in shelters for residents of the South.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC)
As volunteers are deploying in bomb shelters and emergency kits for the elderly and people with disabilities are prepped and distributed, JDC’s Israeli Facebook page is offering videos and tips on how to handle children’s trauma, information for people with disabilities and those helping them in times of emergency, and instructions for how elderly Israelis can cope or can be assisted during the crisis.
JDC is also:
- deploying volunteers from its network of programs including Better Together, Centers for Young Adults, and 50,000+ member AMEN volunteer initiative to operate activities for children confined to bomb shelters and create arts and crafts kits and game activities. JDC is also collaborating with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and making its AMEN volunteers available to assist JAFI Absorption Centers in the Southern Region as needed.
- packing and distributing emergency kits for the elderly and people with disabilities. Kits include a flashlight, transistor radio, batteries, a first aid kit and bottled water.
- will deploy social workers, together with Israel Ministry of Welfare, to reach out and support isolated elderly, Holocaust survivors, and seniors with special needs to ensure they are cared for and have food, medicine, groceries, as well as emotional support during this traumatic time.
- preparing its network of children’s post trauma programs to be immediately operational once schools and community centers have reopened. Parents are already utilizing the skills from JDC’s “Red Alert Song” and Hibuki doll programs during and after siren alerts, at home, and in shelters.
Yesterday, The Jewish Agency hosted several thousand children from Israel’s South on a day trip out of rocket range.