August 5, 2007 / 21 Av 5767
Since July 1, the Jewish Agency has been providing day and overnight camp opportunities to all the 8,200 youth between the ages of 6 and 17 living in Sderot and the surrounding area, taking them to camps or on field trips outside the zone which has come under continuous rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.
On any given day during July and August, there are some 4,000 children and teens participating in a myriad of Jewish Agency coordinated camp activities. This summer camp project, To Sderot With Love, cost $4.79 million, funded by the United Jewish Communities – the Federations of North America, United Israel Appeal of Canada, Keren Hayesod, the IDB Group and Israeli donors, with the cooperation of Israel's largest daily newspaper Yediot Ahronoth and it's YNET internet site.
“On any given day there is a camp activity available to each and every child in the Sderot area, which takes place out of the range of the missiles,” says Yael Raz, the Jewish Agency coordinator of the summer camps.
It is a small world! The scout troop coordinator posing with 2 campers, is performing
a year of voluntary service and happens to be the next-door neighbor of the Jewish Agency Chairman, Zeev Bielski.
Camp activities include visits to Israel’s nature reserves, amusement and water parks, zoos and the safari, entertainment performance, a stand up comedy club, even a miniature American Indian village was set up in a camp near Beersheva – all these on top of routine camp activities.
This week (August 6) all camp tracks will take a three-day tour of Jerusalem, introducing the children to major sites, in celebration of the 40th year of the capital’s unification. Camps also bring children to the north of Israel, with a variety of nature-oriented activities, including hiking and kayaking; a camp group also went to Eilat.
Most camp tracks run for either one or two weeks, following which participants can sign up for another track or repeat the same track. Some of the camps are week-long sleep-over camps; others are day camps, with the children returning home every evening. The cost per child for a single day of camp is approximately $60 for overnight camps and $45 for day camps.
“The children are so happy and their parents are so grateful – we get thank you letters every day,” Raz said.
Three thousand five hundred campers and their parents from the Sderot area at the Superland Amusement park on July 29. Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski (left) seated for a roller coaster ride alongside Migdal Or summer camp director Rabbi Grossman who hosted the Sderot residents on the camp’s fun day out.
Tamir Abouksis, aged 14, from Sderot is one of the children participating. He was wounded two years ago by Kassam shrapnel. Abouksis and his friends received a present from heaven: they flew in the Negev skies as part of the summer camp activities. It was an unforgettable experience that took them away from the everyday tension they live with. "The situation in Sderot is very difficult," Tamir said. "It is impossible to live like this. I am scared to leave the house, and when I walk in the street I am always mentally lining up potential places where I can take cover."
Scores of Sudanese refugee children who are in Israel also participated in some of the summer camp fun-days with their parents.
See Sderot Summer Camps blog.