While Chanukah is usually a time for celebration and optimism, this year the students at Kfar Silver Youth Village, a member of World ORT’s “Educating for Life” Educational Network, have marked the festival in a climate of fear and anxiety.
Following President Donald Trump’s recognition earlier this month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, the security situation in southern Israel has taken a turn for the worse, after a relatively quiet couple of years.
Since the December 6 announcement 22 rockets have been fired on Israel by Palestinian organizations in the Gaza strip, with five forced down by the Iron Dome, but 14 hitting Israeli territory.
This escalation has had a traumatic effect on many of the students at Kfar Silver – located only 14 kilometers from the Gaza border and within 25 seconds of rocket launches.
Karam Abo-Musa, an 11th grade student at Kfar Silver’s boarding school, describes the students’ feelings:
“Personally, most of the time I’m not afraid but other students react differently and at times I find myself stressed too. The other day when the “Red Color” was activated and the rocket alarm sound system set off, a student started crying from fear. I tried to help calm her but to tell the truth, she was so afraid that I began to feel it too. Last week the siren sounded at about 11 o’ clock at night. I was asleep and my roommate was in the shower. Luckily the rockets hit far from Kfar Silver – but they did so before we even made it to the shelter. We hope this round will be over soon and that it will go back to being quiet again.”
Shimon Solomon, CEO of Kfar Silver Youth Village concurs:
“Living under rocket threat is not easy – and that’s an understatement. Each time I hear the media reports that the Iron Dome has intercepted a rocket – and no one was harmed – I chuckle to myself. Only someone who does not live under rocket fire can report this. With every siren, every explosion heard, and every sprint to the shelters, we have more and more psychological causalities. People in southern Israel carry with them the trauma, fears, and nightmares – especially the children.
“Four years ago, the children here had to deal with 50 days of war. Each siren these days bring back the trauma of that time and it destabilizes them for the following hours, days or even weeks in some cases. In addition, the Village has many young children who are new immigrants. They are dealing with the daily difficulties of learning a new language, a new culture – and now must face a war situation for the first time in their lives – in their new home.
“When sirens go off, our on-site staff members run first to help the children get to the shelters, leaving behind their families who remain at risk in the staff residence area, where we are still lacking safety shelters. A few years ago, a rocket fell inside this area, between two houses, on the sidewalk. It was a miracle that there were no casualties. No one should have to deal with that terrible dilemma.”