21 January 2009 Returning to routine is rocket science The three World ORT-supported schools in Israels south which had been closed for safety reasons during the Gaza war have re-opened, but some children are finding it difficult to shed their anxieties. Students and teachers at Shaar HaNegev, Shikma and Makif Aleph High Schools have welcomed the ceasefire but acknowledge that an end to the rocket attacks does not immediately bring peace of mind. Every time we hear a bang were scared, said Lihi Vaanunu, 17, a final year student at Shaar HaNegev. Shaar HaNegev, with many classrooms reinforced due to years of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip just two kilometres away, partially re-opened last week, before the ceasefire and Lihi had not been thrilled by the prospect. Im not really happy that school is re-opening; its not safe, its scary, she said at the time. But we have to go because weve missed a lot so we have to study. I want to be at home with my family when Im at school I dont know whats happening with them. However, now, she says, the ceasefire means she feels safe despite the effect loud noises still have on her and her friends nerves. It feels good to be back at school but we have a lot of work to do to catch up. Our bagrut (matriculation) exams are next week so were also having to study at home a lot. I hope its going to be okay. We have been given 10 bonus points by the government so that will help, Lihi said. The classroom at Beer Shevas Makif Aleph School which had been badly damaged by a Hamas missile three weeks ago was repaired in time for the schools re-opening on Monday. The first hour of lesson time was devoted to talking about experiences and feelings from the past month. But whenever a child feels the need to express something about this tense time they are given the opportunity to do so, said Smadar Sharvit, the schools World ORT Innovation Co-ordinator. However, Mrs Sharvit has managed to turn Hamass war crimes into a fun-filled physics lesson. As a physics teacher I have harnessed the childrens interest and anxiety into learning about the mechanics of rockets, she said. They want to know about the different types of missiles, their various capabilities and how they work. It reassured them to know the details of what missiles can do and what they cant. Psychologically it helped because by understanding the physics of rockets these weapons lost some of their threatening mystery. And I used Looney Tunes cartoons of Wile E. Coyote using rockets to try to catch Road Runner to illustrate what I was teaching. It was a really good lesson. Not all students have returned, however. Some of them have not yet come back from the north or Eilat where theyd gone to be out of range of the rockets. And some still have anxieties and dont feel safe about coming to school and some parents have more fears than their children; they dont think the ceasefire will hold and think there will be more missiles any day, Mrs Sharvit said. Those anxieties were not helped when she and other residents of Beer Sheva found themselves in air raid shelters in the early hours of this morning because of what turned out to be a false alarm. Ilan Siegel, 18, who majors in psychology and sociology at Shaar HaNegev, is among those students who have yet to return to school but has the luxury of leeway as the earliest exam she has is still three weeks away. My father has returned to our home in Kfar Aza, close to the Gaza border, but my mother wants to stay here in Kibbutz Ruhama for a few more days to see if it stays quiet, Ilan said this week. Her friend, Rotem Yehudai, 18, returned to school last week. She grew up in Sderot but left with her family to live in Moshav Mabuim, to the south-east, two years ago. I was happy to be back at school because I have finals at the end of the month and I was worried that wed have problems catching up, Rotem said. The renewal of a social life was also very welcome. We had missed each other because we didnt see each other while school was closed everyone stayed with their families the whole two weeks, she said. Im happy that our government did something to try to stop the rocket attacks which had been going on for eight years. Im sorry for the Palestinians losses and for our losses but Im happy that we did something to protect our country. World ORT is helping children across Israels south get back into the routine of school by hiring buses to take classes to the safari park in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv. Five municipalities in the region have been offered use of the buses and more than 680 children have benefited since the project started on Monday most of them from schools not part of the Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme. The safari park is really suitable for younger children, aged under 10 but the schools participating in Kadima Mada schools are high schools. But Makif Aleph has taken up the offer of the buses to take some of their youngest pupils there, said Hanan Rubin, Finance and Administration Manager at World ORTs Representative Office in Israel, who is in charge of the project. The municipalities allocate the use of the buses and the Department of Development of the Galil and Negev has been paying for the safari park entry tickets. Everyone has been very grateful for this initiative, Mr Rubin said. Teachers have told me that the trips have enabled the young children to relax, to reform their group identities and bond again with staff. This, in turn, has made it much easier for both children and teachers to get back into the normal class routine.