(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The battle for the hearts and security of Sderot residents was renewed in the hours before Shavuot began, as Russian-born billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak searched for a location for a tent city, and the Sderot Municipality and the Defense Ministry worked together to offer a brief respite to an additional 1,200 city residents.
As of Wednesday night, Gaydamak's workers were putting the finishing touches on the tent city meant to hold approximately 1000 residents of Sderot near the Yarkon River in north Tel Aviv.
The tent city is modeled after a similar endeavor launched by Gaydamak at the Nitzanim Park in the summer of 2006 to house refugees from rocket fire in the North. In addition to basic amenities, the facilities at the tent city include activity stations for both adults and children, as well as food and entertainment.
Gaydamak announced Tuesday evening that he would set up a tent city for 3,000 Sderot residents in a wooded area adjacent to Ganei Yehoshua in Tel Aviv, after the Jerusalem Municipality and the Prime Minister's Office rejected a plan to place the tents in the capital's Sacher Park.
Gaydamak's employees had already begun moving tents and equipment into the park, which is located just below the Knesset, when the city objected, claiming that the park lacked sufficient sanitary facilities.
Some of Gaydamak's associates accused the city of trying to "undermine" the billionaire's attempts to help residents of the South.
Instead, the municipality offered Gaydamak the use of Tzipori Park on the outskirts of the city, which he rejected.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that the Defense Ministry was giving Sderot residents a chance to refresh themselves by providing vacations, and therefore there was no need for Gaydamak's tent city.
Hours before Shavuot began, an additional government-sponsored "relief" operation was carried out under the auspices of the Sderot Municipality and the Defense Ministry. With the help of the Home Front Command, over 1200 residents left the city to celebrate the holiday far from the threat of Kassams.
The residents were sent to a number of sites: 590 were sent to Jerusalem, 200 to Givat Haviva, 200 to Netanya and 300 to Tiberias. They were given food and beverages en route to the sites, where soldiers awaited their arrival and coordinated activities for adults and children alike.