Parents throughout the country do not feel safe sending their children to preschool, said Danit Greenboim, spokeswoman for the National Parents Association.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Greenboim said the organization is receiving dozens of calls daily by parents from all districts, voicing their concern for the lack of security precautions being taken in preschools and kindergartens.
“This is a very problematic situation. There is no clear national standard on this. In Israel, there is a law that a mall cannot open without a security guard present, but there is no such clear guideline with regards to preschools and kindergartens,” she said.
Only schools with more than 150 children are required to have a security guard present, and the vast majority of preschools and kindergartens have far fewer enrolled, Greenboim said.
“You cannot expect a preschool teacher, where the kids are only three years old and barely potty-trained, to be able to secure the children in the case of a [terrorist] incident,” she said.
Furthermore, the responsibility to provide security for daycare centers falls on the police and therefore on the municipalities and the Public Security Ministry, she said.
“This issue has been on the agenda for the past two years and we have approached the Public Security Ministry and they are very aware of the problem,” she said. “I understand this is a budgetary issue, but there are times when we need increased security.”
According to Greenboim, the issue must be addressed on a national level and clear standards must be implemented across all municipalities with regards to preschool security.
“It’s also important to calm the parents and the tensions at home that are passed on to the children – this is our responsibility as parents,” she added.
In Jerusalem, the site of the terrorist attack on the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood on Tuesday that left five dead, parents groups have expressed grave concern regarding the safety of their children and have demanded that the municipality place armed guards outside every public Jewish preschool and kindergarten in the city.
The Jerusalem Mothers Forum, a Facebook group headed by Michal Fishman-Rouah that boasts some 6,000 members, has recently led the charge.
“The issue of security in preschools is not a new issue and it is something that we had discussed a lot in the past. The incident in Har Nof has thrust this into the spotlight and unfortunately there has to be a tragedy for things to take effect,” Fishman- Rouah, a mother of two, told the Post on Thursday.
“The message of attacking a synagogue is the equivalent of attacking a preschool and this is crossing the redline; and once that line is crossed, there is no going back,” she said.
According to Fishman-Rouah, there are some 2,000 preschools in Jerusalem, of which approximately 1,000 are Jewish daycare centers. Of these schools only about 200, mainly in border-zone areas, are licensed to have a security guard – a decision taken by the municipality at the opening of the school year.
“Har Nof is not a border-zone area,” she said. “I don’t feel safer because I am not in a border community. Do people only throw rocks in the south of the city? Do terrorists only stab people at the light rail station? The fact that the municipality makes these distinctions is a major problem.”
The forum head explained that the majority of the preschools and kindergartens in the city have fences surrounding the schools and a touch pad intercom as their primary security.
“We all know that in the event of an incident a code pad is not going to protect the students. It’s like applying a band aid. Instead, we must put an armed guard outside every preschool,” she said.
Fishman-Rouah stressed the importance of passing national legislation that would ensure clear guidelines as well as a budget for security in preschools and kindergartens.
“In real time, the [current policy is not that] of a country living under terrorism, and currently Jerusalem is under terrorism,” she said. “Har Nof is a wake-up call for all of us. To say we will supply guards only to border communities is to stick your head in the sand.”
On Wednesday, some 40 mothers from the forum, including Fishman-Rouah, met with MK Erel Margalit (Labor), chairman of the Knesset’s Jerusalem Lobby, for an emergency discussion regarding security in preschools and kindergartens in the city.
“I call upon the government to budget security for Jerusalem daycare centers immediately.
Har Nof is not a border zone, and parents must be presented with a solution. We want an open and safe city, but lately many feel that Jerusalem has become a target, and we must protect our children,” Margalit said at the meeting.
The Knesset Committee on Education, Culture and Sports will hold an emergency hearing on Wednesday regarding school safety nationwide.