As efforts continue to protect its citizens from rocket fire and infiltration through tunnels from Gaza, virtually everyone in Israel is affected in some way or another.
With some 86,000 reservists called up, most families will have loved ones serving, and large parts of the country continue to live under the threat of rocket fire, with repeated sirens and alerts.
Naturally the south of the country is the most affected, due to its proximity to Gaza, meaning more rockets, the threat of mortar attacks and infiltration through tunnels, and shorter alert times. And it is this area that is home to many of ORT’s activities and projects. Whilst it is vacation time for Israel’s schools and ORT students, this presents its own problems. With parents working and children not in the structured environment of the classroom, special measures are needed to ensure their safety and welfare, and the peace of mind of their families.
World ORT Kadima Mada has responded with a number of programs, and such was the speed and effectiveness of the response that our activities made national news.
Israeli colleagues were also delighted to welcome a solidarity mission of ORT lay leaders and professionals who travelled from the north to the south of the country to see what WOKM is doing for young people affected by the security situation. The mission was led by the President of World ORT, Mauricio Merikanskas, from Mexico, with participants from the United States and the United Kingdom.
We have also been greatly assisted by the generosity of the Jewish Federations of North America who have supported our efforts and demonstrated through words and deeds how much they value the professionalism and practical work of World ORT in response to this crisis.
Details of our activities and continuing needs are below.
Respite for Children of the South
The constant stream of rockets in the south has brought regular life and routine to a standstill, with government instructions for people to stay in shelters or secure spaces or very close to them. To help relieve this constant stress, WOKM arranged respite camps in the north of Israel. Children and families were able to get some needed rest and enjoy productive and fun educational activities in a secure environment.
This initiative has already benefitted several hundred children and their parents, who accompanied them. The families came from the areas closest to the Gaza strip “ﾓ from the municipalities of Sdot Negev, Bnei Shimon, Lachish and Hof Ashkelon. The program took place at Mada Park in Kiryat Yam, with accommodation at the nearby Hodayot Youth Village. Most were two days programs, with one day long program for those who preferred it.
The program for 1,800 children is budgeted at approximately $250,000 and we are extremely grateful to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) for providing a large part of the funding for an activity which they have highly commended, together with generous donations from ORT Switzerland, France and the UK.
More funds are urgently required to continue to run this vital program.
You-niversity Educational Enrichment Classes in Secure Spaces
For those unable to take advantage of the respite program in the north, WOKM has introduced the popular YOU-niversity programs in a special format in two southern cities, Dimona and Kiryat Gat. Taking place in shelters and other safe areas, children and teenagers are able to spend their time on a variety of courses including science and technology, robotics, forensics, aerospace, applied physics, architecture, and food engineering and in each case the teacher brought their own materials with them to use.
More than 50 activities are taking place in this project, benefitting around 2,000 children.
Once again, we were able to run this program thanks to the generous support of JFNA and other partners and supporters from within the ORT family, but more funds are needed to continue the program.
We encourage supporters in the US and Canada to support their local federation emergency campaign, and welcome additional funds to continue to run these programs and other similar initiatives that might be needed as the crisis continues.