The Children of Sderot in Nes Harim:
Trees and Birds Instead of Rockets and Sirens
Forty teenagers from Sderot and other communities near the Gaza Strip attended a camp at the KKL-JNF Field and Forest Center at Nes Harim near Jerusalem. They enjoyed recreational and educational activities and had fun far away from the Qassam rocket attacks that have begun in the south following a period of relative quiet.
During the five-day camp, contribution of Friends of JNF Australia,
the youths went on hikes and visited various sites in Jerusalem and the surrounding area to learn and become better acquainted with the history, geography, and nature of Israel.The children, who were on Passover vacation from school, were pleased to have a respite from the anxiety and tension of life near the Gaza border. The past year has been relatively quiet in the communities' adjacent to Gaza. Rocket fire has decreased significantly since the "Cast Lead" campaign. However, before the Passover holiday there has been escalation along the border. The sound of sirens echoed again and the residents of Sderot returned to the shelters with which they are so well-acquainted. Maayan Nissimov
, an eleven-year-old girl, said, "The night before the trip we heard a siren. We got out of bed and ran to the shelters and we heard a loud explosion. I told my mother that maybe it would be better if I didn't go to the camp so that I could take care of her. She answered that it would be better for me to be in a safe, protected place. I'm glad that I came to the camp, because the activity gives us strength. When we go back home we'll be able to cope better."
Activities in the camp placed emphasis on strengthening the values of love of land and nature. The participants hiked in Nahal Katlav and the Aminadav Forest. They visited the Mesuah lookout point and Hirbet Madras in the British Park, crawled through the ancient caves, and learned about ancient agriculture in the Sataf Springs.
The children visited the Burma Road and learned about the history of the battle to break the siege of Jerusalem during the War of Independence. The young tourists spent a day in Jerusalem with emphasis placed upon sites that are connected with the War of Independence and the Six Day War. The children became better acquainted with the country through a treasure hunt at the Mini Israel Exhibition that shows important sites in the country in small scale. The summer camp ended on the last day with a visit to the stalactite cave and Park Canada.
"I meet lots of groups of young people from all over the country, and it's obvious that these kids come from an area where life is not simple at all," said Liora Atlan
, a KKL-JNF guide. "Fortunately that doesn't prevent them from enjoying the trip. They behave just like all other teenagers."
, 13, said, "It's fun to be able to get away from the war and it's also an opportunity to travel and learn new things and get closer to friends. Of course we worry about our families at home and call constantly to make sure everyone is all right."
Older members in the group such as Avnil Menshirov
served as counselors. "It's great to go away on vacation for a few days. We'd gladly stay for another week. We enjoy traveling. I feel it's a serious responsibility to be a counselor, and I like the job." Vicky Shabteib
, 13, said, "It's relaxing to come to a place like this in the heart of nature. I feel tense at home. It's much calmer here. I went to a similar KKL-JNF camp last summer, and to tell you the truth, then it was much more frightening in Sderot. When I heard that it was possible to go again, I jumped at the opportunity." Racheli Niazov
, 15, said, "At home I'm scared all the time. I don't sleep well at night and I'm always checking that everyone is all right and making sure nothing has happened to them. There's a pleasant atmosphere here with birds and trees and it calms me down. Soon there will be no choice and we'll have to go home. I think that this activity will give us more strength to deal with the hardships."
, head of the
KKL-JNF educational center at Nes Harim, is well-acquainted with the
children of Sderot. In the past few years many groups of youths have
come to the center with the help of contributions of Friends of KKL-JNF
from the United States and Australia. "I'm happy that we have the
possibility to help these young kids get away from the difficult
routine in which they are living and to bring them into a different
reality. Here in the heart of the forest they can rest and find
The participants in the camp wished to thank the Friends of KKL-JNF
Australia whose contributions made the camp possible. They chose an
original way to thank them by sending the contributors greeting cards
with thank-you notes. "I want to thank you for everything that you've
done for us." wrote Revital.
"Thank you for helping me go on the trip. I enjoyed it very much and had lots of fun," wrote Michelle
expressed everyone's feelings in a few simple words: "To the Friends of
KKL-JNF Australia – Thank you very much from the children of Sderot."
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