Some 700 youth from Sderot and the western Negev were treated on Sunday and Monday to two days of fun at Yamit Water Park in Holon to get away from a daily reality of running into bomb shelters.
"There is no better way to refresh yourself than with water," said Mickey Ben-Tzion, the park's operation manager. "These kids deserve it."
Maya, a teacher at Shikma High School in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, who accompanied the children to the water park, said, "The kids have not been able to concentrate. They are scared and sad. They are constantly worrying about their parents."
The afternoons at the water park were paid for by the Jewish Agency and the Israel Youth Hostels Association.
Shikma High pupil Tal Peretz described daily life in Sderot as "scary and stressful."
"We can rarely leave our houses. We can't go to the grocery store, to friends' parties. The siren goes off all day long, and we have 10 seconds to get into our shelters. It ruins our sleep. My dog begins to run around like crazy, and even knows how to get down to the bomb shelter by himself," she said.
Peretz's family was personally affected by Kassam fire several months ago when a rocket hit Tal's older brother, a security guard for the home of Defense Minister Amir Peretz [no relation].
"My brother lost both of his legs from the knee down. He is still recovering in the hospital," she said. Another Kassam rocket killed one of Tal's neighbors a year ago.
When asked how they felt towards the government, one girl replied, "We want better protection."
Shiran, another resident of Sderot, corrected her. "We don't want protection. We want it all to stop!" she said.
Tal is also very angry about the way the government treats Sderot residents.
"If a Kassam fell in Ramat Aviv, they would have fixed the situation in a second. Now it's all become routine, and they're not doing anything," she said.
The teachers voiced similar complaints. "They don't provide us with enough security. There aren't enough shelters. We have 10 seconds to get into the shelters, and often the closest [one] is much farther away," said one teacher.
Menahem, another teacher from Shikma High, added, "The government is simply not taking responsibility for its citizens."
While many pupils continue to attend school, others have stopped coming all together - either because they want to stay home with their families, or because they have left the city for safer locations.
When asked what they saw in their future, all of the pupils agreed that they would not live in Sderot.
"I wouldn't want my kids growing up in a place like that," said Malka.
Nataly Furman, another student from the area, added, "I would rather just move away from Israel. It's much quieter there."
While the youngsters enjoyed their visit to the water park, they all realized that they would have to return to their homes - more specifically, to their bomb shelters.
"Being here for the day doesn't make the problem go away," Tal said.
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