A great many live within the 0-to-7 kilometer range from Gaza, on Kibbutzim and agricultural settlements that suffer from attacks from Qassams and mortar attacks, with virtually no protection from Iron Dome and no time to run to shelters during attacks.
Each day, the camp took the children on an outing to an attraction or historic site closer to the center of the country, outside most of Hamas’ rocket range. They crawled through Bar Kochba’s caves, enjoyed the Superland amusement park, and hiked in Ein Bokek. On the last day of camp, last week, they visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and then toured the City of David.
As she prepared to leave the City of David on the last day of camp, 12-year-old Hallel, from Dimona, said that the hikes and Superland were “very very fun” and that the camp trips helped her realize that “our history is full of heroes – the people who lived here. And it’s fun to get away from the rockets.”
Hallel’s younger brother, Gil-Or, is “8 and a half,” entering 3rd grade, and is on the Victims of Terror camp for his third year. He explained in detail, with a great deal of seriousness, how their older brother was badly injured in 2008, when a Palestinian terrorist entered the Merkaz Harav yeshiva and opened fire, killing eight students.
Gil-Or said he loved Superland and Ein Bokek. He reported that “There aren’t so many sirens in Dimona now. For a while, yes, but now it’s not so bad.” He added that he makes friends at camp.
Today, Hallel was wearing a t-shirt with the emblem of her youth movement, Bnei Akiva, which is Orthodox-Zionist. It’s not often in Israel that religious and secular children mingle in a camp setting, but Victims of Terror come from a wide variety of backgrounds. “It’s nice that there are secular kids here,” Hallel said. “We have become friends. It’s very nice.”
The camp director for the Fund for Victims of Terror, Eran Shavit, said that on the first day of camp, he personally drove a little girl, Shira, 6 years old, and her brother, from Kiryat Malachi to meet the camp bus, since they were the only two children on that day from Kiryat Malachi. Their father was injured in 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense, when the air-raid siren went off, and he was hit by a truck as he ran across the street to the bomb shelter. He was “in a bad state” for years, a counselor said, and died just three months ago.
Shira cried on the way to the bus, Eran said, complaining that she was bored and that she doesn’t like that she doesn’t know anyone at camp other than her brother.
“Just you wait,” Eran told her. “You’ll meet other children on the bus and from then on you’ll have a great time.”
Sure enough, he reported, Shira, the youngest child at camp, has become the camp darling. “She is getting so spoiled,” a counselor confirmed as Shira, dressed in pink from head to toe, giggled with older children nearby. “At this camp she has 300 mothers.”
The children attended the 10-day camp free of charge. The program was funded by Drs. Harold Marder and Jewel Slesnick, through the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County; Dr. Jay and Caryl Feingold; the Jewish Federation of St. Louis; UIA Canada; and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.