December 6, 2006 / 15 Kislev 5767
One sunny day in the southern development town of Sderot, 18-month-old Shiloh Na’amat was playing happily outside. A tremendous explosion rocked the foundations of his home as a Kassam missile fell five feet from where he was playing.
Says Yosef Na’amat, Shiloh's father, “A large piece of shrapnel hit Shiloh’s head and penetrated his skull. Another piece of shrapnel hit his left eye. Pieces of burning plastic ignited his hair and clothes on fire. Miraculously, the faucet in the yard burst open as a result of the force of the shock and put out the fire that threatened to consume Shiloh. We thank G-d everyday that Shiloh is still alive.”
That attack took place two years ago. Unfortunately, until today, the residents of the western Negev, like Yosef Na'amat and his family, are still on the frontline of continued rocket attacks.
According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), over 1000 rockets slammed into Israel's southern cities and communities in the past year alone, killing three civilians, injuring dozens and causing extensive damage to civilian infrastructure. In November, 2006 alone, some 300 Kassam rockets hit the city of Sderot. The physical damage can be repaired. The emotional and psychological trauma of living in a constant state of fear is taking its toll on the residents of Sderot and the surrounding regions of Sha’ar HaNegev, Ashkelon Coast, Sdot Negev and Eshkol.
Many of the people living in the western Negev region are vulnerable new immigrants who are trying to build a new life in Israel. This includes people who have fled anti-Semitism in their native countries in order to live proud Jewish lives in their homeland.
The Jewish Agency has pledged $2.5 million in emergency funds to Sderot and Gaza Perimeter communities for children and youth. The funds come from monies raised from generous donors by Jewish Federations in the United States through UJC's Israel Emergency Campaign (IEC) to help residents under attack this past summer. The IEC was an unprecedented campaign that supported the Jewish Agency's assistance to northern residents on the frontline of the Lebanon War, and is instrumental in putting every northern resident on the road to recovery through programs for Rebuilding the Galilee.
The assistance will allow thousands of children and teenagers to attend camps in central Israel over the Hanukkah vacation and to enjoy "tranquil weekends" throughout Israel during the next few months, away from the constant fear and terror of missile attacks.
It will also keep children safely away from the dangers of open areas through organized afternoon enrichment activities to take place in more protected areas within the communities where the children reside.
Click here for enlarged map
At the same time, the Jewish Agency will provide scholarships to 700 students who register for the current academic year at Sapir College, near Sderot. These scholarships will attract young adults to the region and facilitate the continued activity of the college as an occupational, communal, cultural and educational center.
In return for a scholarship of $1,000, the students will volunteer four hours a week in communal activities and in helping children with their studies.
While meeting in Sderot with Mayor Eli Moyal to present the funds, Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski was caught in a missile attack and forced to seek cover in a nearby bomb shelter.
"The residents of Sderot and the communities of the Gaza Perimeter are a model not only for the citizens of Israel, but for the Jewish communities around the world," says Bielski. "Therefore it is especially important for world Jewry to contribute and augment their staying power. The Jewish Agency will continue to lead the efforts to assist and support these beleaguered residents."