The southern Israeli city of Sderot is located less than a mile from the Gaza border and is home to a diverse community of 26,455 Israeli men, women and children. Sderot is also known as the “Bomb Shelter capitol of the world.” For the past eighteen years Sderot has been under intermittent rocket fire from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. After three wars and countless operations against the the Iranian backed terrorist organization, life in Sderot is far from secure and the children of Sderot are paying the highest price.
According to a recent study, 45% of children under the age of six suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which is expressed through anxiety, developmental regression, sleeping disorders and aggression. As soon as the “Red Alert” siren wails, residents have less than 10 seconds to find a bomb shelter or protected space. The situation is untenable. Generations of young people have grown up under this extreme stress and there is no governmental solution in sight.
My Brother’s Keeper International has been supporting early education in the Shar HaNegev county since Co-founder Dov Gelman first served as a reserve border policeman in the city of Sderot and surrounding communities during the Gaza War of 2009 (Operation Cast Lead). MBKI teamed up with local social service organizations serving the Russian and Ethiopian communities in Sderot and funded two weekend retreats in the Galilee in the middle of the war. Since 2009 we have provided advanced medical kits and light weight ballistic vests to civilian emergency first responders.
Before the Jewish holidays began, we received a phone call from our long time kindergarten manager Tzofia, formerly of the village of Shlomit on the Egyptian/Gaza border informing us that she and her family moved into the town of Sderot to take over the management of a brand new city kindergarten in a newly constructed neighborhood. Tzofia informed us that aside from the brand new building and basic furniture, the kindergarten had NOTHING. No books, no toys, no games, no educational equipment.
Our mission is to strengthen early education among the most vulnerable of Israel’s society. Children living in a conflict zone is a top priority. Tzofia is a veteran educator. She and her team not only prepare children socially and academically for elementary school, she walks the same tight rope as all the educators in the Gaza Envelope who provide a “safe” environment to learn and in the case of her children, heal.
We are launching a campaign to quickly raise $8,000 to equip Gan Tzofia in the Gaza border town of Sderot. We endeavor to fill the empty shelves with books, educational toys, dolls, playground equipment, educational/therapeutic games and fund weekly enrichment classes for the entire school year.
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