The Federation’s TIPS Partnership incorporates the Regional Council of Hof Ashkelon, a consortium of kibbutzim and moshavim that border Gaza. This update from our partners, written Sunday, April 10, reveals how life is being impacted on a day-to-day basis by the uptick in missiles coming into the region from Gaza. Certainly this underscores the value of our Partnership, as our concern for the welfare of our extended family is appreciated at these times.
—Stuart Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona
After a relatively long period of quiet since the Cast Lead Campaign in Gaza, all the tension, fear, and disquiet have unfortunately returned to our region. The entire Hof Ashkelon region was repeatedly reminded of its proximity to Gaza by the frequent sirens announcing missile attacks from Friday afternoon (April 8) through Saturday.
Israel was able to prove the efficacy of the “Iron Dome” anti-missile rocket, produced and developed in Israel with support from the U.S. government, in the skies above Hof Ashkelon.
Since Thursday afternoon when an anti-tank missile was fired from Gaza at a yellow school bus of the nearby Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, seriously injuring a 16-year-old student [who has since died] and lightly wounding the driver, more than 120 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel. Many of them landed in open areas of Hof Ashkelon. One actually fell in the corner of Kibbutz Zikim but luckily caused no damage. Israeli Air Force planes have been attacking missile launchers, their crews, and aiming for the terrorist organization leaders.
The Regional Council has been working in emergency mode with three continuous shifts preparing for the worst possible scenarios. The local community emergency teams have been put on alert and are backed up by the various departments and emergency teams of the council.
School is already out on Pesach vacation but the regional kindergartens were closed today. The council is organizing trips for children and the families nearest Gaza to other parts of the country. Each community is entitled to two trips. Pesach day camps have changed their locations to areas beyond the threat of missiles. Various agencies like community centers and regional councils from the center and north of the country have mobilized for the possibility of assistance with transportation, culture, free time activity outside the regions and if necessary in shelters.
Every morning, staff meetings are held to assess and manage the situation. Tonight a meeting will be held with the heads of the emergency teams to update and review the situation. Tomorrow morning there will be a meeting of the emergency staff with psychologists to help the workers stay level-headed and provide additional tools to deal with the pressure.
This time, the constant state of alert has raised the anxiety level among many residents, adults as well as children. Parents and children who have been able to handle the tension until now have begun to show severe distress. Signs of confusion, frustration and helplessness due to lack of control and fatigue have become common. Two significant events that have raised the threshold of anxiety among children are the rocket attack on the school bus and the Vogel family murder by terrorist intrusion in the Itamar settlement. These events in addition to the air raid alarms, have made many Hof Ashkelon residents feel even more vulnerable.
The council is doing its utmost to ease the distress of residents, especially now before the Passover holiday when the children are home while their parents are at work. The residents are following the orders of the IDF Home Front Command and the regional and local emergency teams, and are actively participating in the two-way communications that make it easier to cope with the situation.
We hope that the upcoming Pesach holiday will bring freedom from every fear and threat.
Yair Farjoun is head of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.