The deputy director of a youth village near the Gaza border explains how visits to the bunker have become almost routine.
The sirens started going off from Monday afternoon. There were lots of explosions around us in the Ashkelon area. Every missile that goes towards the city, we hear it and feel it as though it is here with us. The houses are shaking, the kids’ dormitories are shaking.
The Kfar Silver Youth Village has 700 children in the school and 230 of them live in dormitories here. Many of the students are used to the situation but for a lot of them, especially those who are in their first or second year here, it is really hard.
They have panic attacks, they cannot sleep because they are crying and shaking.
Some of the students are more used to it and know how to react. We have a lot of practice during the year to make sure they are prepared for a time like this. They know the procedures and what to do when the siren goes off.
But they panic and run to the mobile shelters. Some of the dormitories have their own shelters but half don’t so they use the communal shelters. The children know where to go according to where they sleep.
We prepare them for it. If we suddenly say we have to sleep in the shelters they feel more tense.
But if we tell them to calmly take their mattress and pillows to the shelter after their shower, and we will all stay together and have shared activities, they think it’s almost fun. They think it is a good experience.
For the adults who have been here for more than four years, and who went through Operation Protective Edge, every time the situation happens again the trauma wakes up and we have to deal with that. It’s horrible, a terrible experience. More shelters would help.
We finished the evacuation of the students to another youth village near Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon because it is safer.
We know how to judge the security situation — and Monday was worse than usual, the number of times the sirens and missile explosions were over our heads.
It happens every other six months or so. We have a wave of rockets and sirens, and then it stops. It’s horrible, it’s not normal, it’s not acceptable – but this is our reality.
Tzafrir Ben Sinai is deputy director of World ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village on the outskirts of Ashkelon