May 29, 2007 / 12 Sivan 5767
On Monday, May 28th, the children of Sderot and the Gaza perimeter communities returned to school. On the same day, a barrage of 11 Kassam rockets blasted Sderot – another day of never ending terror for these stricken citizens.
The Jewish Agency for Israel is once again providing crisis assistance for beleaguered Israelis. With its dedicated professionals in the field, and its capacity to garner resources and to immediately launch and operate emergency programs, the Jewish Agency for Israel is bringing much-needed relief to the region.
As the violence escalated over the past 10 days, causing schools to close in Sderot and the western Negev, the Jewish Agency immediately stepped in. More than 2,600 children and youth were taken out of the range of rocket fire and brought to amusement parks and fun activities in central Israel –leaving the trauma behind for a short time.
Mini Israel Adventure
Fifty-two buses brought these children to Israel's best-loved water parks, to Mini Israel and to the Safari in Ramat Gan. Twenty-five newly arrived young people from Ethiopia participating in the Kedma program at the Friedmann Student Village IBIM near Sderot were also taken to a day of fun. Two hundred and fifty youth enjoyed Israel's soccer cup finals. Although tickets were sold out, the Hapoel Tel Aviv Soccer Club donated these tickets to bring some joy to Sderot's youth.
The complex logistics for these massive operations were handled flawlessly by Jewish Agency personnel, who risked their lives day in and day out. Working closely with the local municipalities, they recruited the thousands of children and made sure that there were enough accompanying counselors to provide proper supervision at all times.
A Water Park Respite
Last weekend, the Jewish Agency produced yet another activity in record-breaking time, in which 671 Sderot and perimeter community members were brought to Jerusalem to see the incredible performance of the Chinese Circus, within the framework of the internationally renowned Israel Festival.
"We received 250 free tickets from the Israel Festival on Thursday morning, and by Friday afternoon over 600 people were asking to go," says Ofer Baram, the Jewish Agency's Public Sector Manager in the Southern District, and a resident of one of the Gaza perimeter communities. "We immediately secured additional tickets from the Israel Festival, and received funding for all of the buses from the Jerusalem Foundation. It was incredible."
Parents, children, singles, new immigrants and senior citizens enjoyed the fantastic antics of the circus performers. "It was a pleasure to finally see joy on the faces of these people," says Baram. "And they couldn't stop praising the Jewish Agency for this small respite."
The Jewish Agency simultaneously took 44 youngsters, ages 10-12, to a three-day scouting camp in Kfar HaHoresh in northern Israel. Run by the Working and Learning Youth Movement, the counselors made sure that the campers had the adventure of a lifetime. Sleeping outside in tents, learning scouting and camping skills, swimming and playing – all out of earshot of the constant rocket warning sirens – these children were able to throw off the yoke of anxiety and fear that is their constant companion.
The weekend before, another group of 30 children were able to do the same when the Jewish Agency brought them to Jerusalem. They spent hours touring the city's fascinating sites, learning about its rich history and participating in ongoing 40th anniversary of the city's reunification celebrations.
The Jewish Agency, upon learning that a number of bomb shelters were in disastrous condition, provided necessities such as essential sanitary supplies, cleaning materials, fans, emergency lighting, bottled water and canned goods. At two bomb shelters, one of which serves as a youth club in a predominately Ethiopian neighborhood, the Jewish Agency bought refrigerators, board games and a DVD with games in the event that the residents need to stay there for an extended period of time.
With the children's return to school, the Jewish Agency is now looking toward the summer, only a month away. A large number of summer sleepaway camps will be established for Sderot's children and youth, out of the line of fire. "This summer we will also have trauma counseling at the camps, to help the children deal with the impossible conditions they are living under," says the Jewish Agency's Yael Raz.
Dr. Zippy Eisenman, Jewish Agency Southern District Director, who is intensely involved in all of the Jewish Agency's activities in Sderot and its environs says, "It is important to stress that in providing for the children in these emergency situations we always work in full cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the local municipalities to make sure that all needs are being met, and there is no overlap of services."
Another Kassam hits Sderot
The Jewish Agency's incredible support to the people of Sderot and the Gaza perimeter communities is made possible by the generosity of our dedicated partners UJC/Federations of North America, UIA Canada and Keren Hayesod, all of whom are committed to coming to the assistance of fellow Jews in Israel who are living under completely untenable conditions.