As sirens continue to force residents to flee into bomb shelters, leaders of mosdos chinuch from communities in the line of fire tell of dire effect the attacks have had on the children in southern Eretz Yisrael.
“The municipality has closed all of the girls’ camps,” said Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Olefsky, Menahel of Bais Yaakov Elementary, Ashdod. “Nothing is allowed to operate in the schools, even with sufficient shelters.”
While keeping children at home for an indefinite period of time is very hard for children and parents alike, Rabbi Olefsky agreed with the decision. “Even though it is easier to manage the girls in school, what are you supposed to do if there is a siren when the kids are on a bus? It’s too much responsibility. Teachers are also human. If a teacher gets hysterical during a siren it affects the whole class.”
Rabbi Meir Shlomo Greenberg, director of Mosdos Gur, Kiryat Gat, told Hamodia that, although the chadarim are closed, the boys call in and listen to their rebbi over the telephone. “The children are very scared. They hear the sirens constantly. They hear rocket attacks. Here in Kriyat Gat, we can also hear the war itself in Gaza.”
In Ashdod, Gerrer chadarim are operating out of the city’s 30 shtiebelach. “We do not have enough room for everyone,” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldberg of Talmud Torah Gur, Ashdod. “We have 90 classes and we have to share the space with the mesivtas.”
Schools in Ashdod have made it clear that although classes are operating, responsibility for children’s safety is on parents who have to bring their children to and from the shtiebel.
Rabbi Goldberg lamented the emotional trials of children living under fire. “Not all children come to learn in the shtiebelach. Some of them are too scared to be away from their parents. Some children are afraid to be alone, even for a moment. What if there is a siren and there is no one there?”
“This is the third time that we have been through this in the last few years,” continued Rabbi Olefsky. “Since then, Bais Yaakov has contracted several specialists to help the girls deal with trauma from rocket attacks.” Obviously, the need for such support is multiplied during wartime. “We do our best to keep the children in touch with the school,” he said. “We gave out a booklet with essays from 20 girls expressing their feelings. We also have a phone line that they can call to hear advice as to how to stay calm and deal healthily with their emotions.”
For adults also, living under fire is a daily challenge. “I ran into a stairwell during one of the sirens last week,” said Rabbi Goldberg. “A rocket hit, not far away and the whole building shook. It was terrifying.”
“During the first week, most people stayed in Ashdod, but people have gotten much more worried since the ground war started,” he said. “Now a lot of people have left; the streets are very empty.”
Rabbi Olefsky said that while many families have left Ashdod, the exodus is less than during the previous two Gaza operations. “The first time this happened, every siren meant that a rocket fell and right afterwards we would hear ambulances. Now, the Iron Dome catches a lot of them. There are constant nissim. Just this morning [Monday] a rocket landed in someone’s apartment and sat there in their dining room unexploded.”