World ORT made an emergency delivery of laptops to Sha’ar HaNegev High School today which will ensure that no-one is left isolated from the school community because of difficult economic circumstances.
Principal of the World ORT-affiliated school, Aharele Rothstein, accepted the laptops saying their psychological and emotional, as well as educational, importance should not be underestimated.
“We have a program of e-learning for each grade – every morning high school students get assignments to help them prepare for their matriculation exams but for middle school students the most important thing is that they know that we’re around, that we’re connected and they know that we’re here for them. We identified 18 children whose families don’t have the money to buy a computer at home but they will now be able to use these laptops from World ORT,” Mr Rothstein said.
He estimated that about half his 1,200 students have already relocated to quieter communities in the north of Israel meaning that the school’s on-line activity also helps to provide an link between them and their parents, whose work commitments keep them in the line of fire.
Like all other schools in the region, Sha’ar HaNegev was closed today meaning that Mr Rothstein sat alone in the school’s new rocket-proof campus to which World ORT and its supporters contributed a vocational training centre and a science and technology centre.
“It’s ironic that we have this new campus but it is closed due to rocket attacks,” he said. “However, this is unusual. Usually when rockets fall we continue as normal. It is just that because of the military operation the authorities decided it was better for all children to remain at home near safe places rather than risk the exposure of taking public transport to get to school. But in ‘normal’ circumstances the new, protected campus allows us to live as peaceful life as possible.”
The current situation in the region entails many layers of concern for those affected. For millions of Israelis there is the obvious concern for their own immediate safety. But for Mr Rothstein, like so many others, there is the concern for family and friends.
“I have three teachers in the reserve who have also been mobilised . And I have two sons who have also been mobilised. I’m proud that they are serving in the army but on the other hand I’m worried. It’s difficult, but I was a soldier and now they are soldiers and their children will be soldiers; that’s the way of life in Israel.”
World ORT in Israel staff member Roni Drucker made the nerve-wracking drive from the office in centrally located Petach Tikva to Sha’ar HaNegev to deliver the laptops.
“It’s not nice: there are some places which are so exposed that when there’s a red alert all you can do is get out of the car and lie on the ground with your hands on your head. And there are a lot of red alerts – and all the time there are alarms. It’s impossible to live like that. After just two hours there you can understand what our students are going through. And that’s just two hours – these kids have been coping with it for 13 years. I tell you, as a mother, it’s impossible,” Ms Drucker said.
Mr Rothstein said the moral support received from World ORT and other organizations, as well as millions of individuals around the world, was no less important than the material help being given.
“Solidarity is something that’s in our genes as Jews,” he said. “I believe that the power we get from people everywhere has given us the strength to continue our jobs here in this complicated situation and place.”
One way World ORT is helping to facilitate solidarity is the creation of a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/139569109523703/) in which students from affiliated schools in the affected communities can share their experiences and emotions – students like Omer Levi.
Omer, a Grade 12 student at Sha’ar HaNegev, wrote: “As I write this there are explosions all around my kibbutz… A lot of people have left my kibbutz for safer locations. And in the evenings I cannot get together with friends who are still here because we must be 15 seconds from a safe room at all times. At night I share my bed in the safe room with my younger brother and our dog. Every sudden sound, every start of a microphone, we immediately think is a Red Alert siren. On the one hand we want to stay in our homes; on the other hand, we want to leave for a place where we can live normally – where we aren’t constantly thinking ‘When will the Red Alert siren catch me, again?!’”
World ORT is working closely with the Jewish Federations of North America in a joint effort to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the people in these communities.