MAJ. GEN. YOEL STRICK, the head of Homefront Command, oversees a missile attack readiness drill with schoolchildren yesterday accompanied by Education Minister Naftali Bennett..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
At exactly 10:05 a.m. the sound of an air raid siren began to flare and a room full of three and four year old children leapt up from their chairs with excitement, and then calmly walked in a train formation to the sheltered bunker in the adjacent room.
Luckily, this was not a real-time event, but rather a national drill for preparedness in the event of a missile attack as part of a nationwide drill held at all the country’s schools on Monday.
The majority of children at the preschool were too young to remember the sirens from Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and so the sound of the alarm was a novel experience for them.
“I prepared the children only a little bit ahead of time, so as not to cause any panic or anxiety,” Maya, a kindergarten teacher in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“I told them only this morning that there would soon be a loud sound, like the sound of a Shofar, and that when we heard it we would all make a train and walk into the special room like a game,” she said.
“Nobody was frightened and nobody cried, they all were very obedient and calmly made their way into the bunker,” the teacher added.
The children had to remain in the bunker for nearly an hour, but Maya was able to pass the time by playing games with them.
“Luckily we have enough room in the bunker that we were able to pass the time quite nicely,” she said.
When asked if she felt the sound of the siren stirred up any negative connotations or emotions, she replied, “for the kids no, but for the staff of course – whenever you hear the start of that siren it causes you to feel something unpleasant, even if it is just a drill.”
While the children seemed unfazed by the siren, parents expressed their concern over why such young children should be exposed to such drills.
“I understand that we live in Israel and that this is our reality but I don’t think that these drills are necessary or effective for such young children,” said Lior, mother of a three and a half year old boy in Maya’s class.
“I think these drills are very important for school aged children, but not when we are talking about such young kids who don’t really understand the meaning of the drill and for who this could potentially cause a great deal of fear or stress,” she said.
“If you have an experienced teacher like Maya, she already knows how to handle the children and what to do in real time – so why do we need the drill?” Lior added.
She said that new teachers could be trained without involving the children.
The drill held by the IDF Home Front Command and the Education Ministry, lasted two hours in schools nationwide from preschool through high school.
Police, Magen David Adom, Fire and Rescue Service and local authorities simulated a simultaneous missile attack on the home front.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who participated in the drill at the Ma’anit School in Ramle, said: “The key to managing correctly in an emergency is a lot of practice.”
“Over 2.2 million pupils practiced how to act in an emergency situation today. It is important to prepare [both] mentally and physically,” Bennett said.