(photo credit: AP [file])
The Sderot Parents Association boycotted the city's educational system on Wednesday, after a Kassam rocket landed near a busy nursery school on Monday.
The city's pupils, their parents and some of the municipality workers left Sderot at 10 a.m. for Jerusalem, where they planned to protest in front of the Knesset against the government's policy on the Kassam fire from the Gaza Strip.
"The Israeli public knows all about Sderot, and our unbearable situation is constantly on the agenda. The problem is that a solution to the Kassam firing is not," Parents Association chairman Sasson Sarah told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The association held a high school strike in the city on Tuesday as a protest against the recent Kassam fire, which has not received a military response. On Wednesday, the parents put the city's entire educational system on strike.
The parents, who threatened not to open the school year on Sunday, claim their children's lives are in danger as long as schools are not completely protected against Kassam attacks.
Around 3,000 pupils and preschoolers have begun classes this year in Sderot. According to the IDF, only three school buildings are completely fortified, and another 10 school buildings have a total of 164 fortified classrooms or portable safety-rooms situated within a 15-second range. In addition, the government intends to fully fortify six more school buildings, three of which will be rebuilt by the end of 2009.
More than 142 pre-schools in Sderot and the surrounding area are completely fortified, the army has said. Another 28 private pre-schools in the area have fortified or portable safety rooms. By the end of this year, all of them will be completely Kassam-proof, according to the IDF.
In addition to the strike, Sarah said, the residents of Sderot mean to launch a campaign outside Sderot together with the Cohen-Rimon-Cohen strategic consultation office, one of whose owners, Roni Rimon, volunteered to help the locals professionally.
"We admit, our efforts to reach the people who live in Tel Aviv as well have failed, but we will work hard to make sure Sderot is no longer a peripheral and overlooked city," Sarah said.
He added that as a part of their new strategy, they were considering keeping up the school strike until an effective and long-term solution was implemented by the government, as well as establishing a strong lobby to work in their favor inside the Knesset.
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, who announced on Tuesday that he was taking a leave of absence due to the ongoing investigation against him by the National Fraud Squad and the Israel Tax Authority, told The Jerusalem Post that he was joining the parents' strike and added that the municipality would supply the buses to bring the pupils to Jerusalem.
"Today, even the moderate ministers understand what I have been saying for the last seven years: A city cannot continue functioning under the insanity of routine Kassam fire," said Moyal, referring to Vice Premier Haim Ramon's suggestion to cut off the electric supply to Gaza after every Kassam attack on Sderot and the surrounding area.
"The IDF needed to react harshly a long time ago after every shooting and to show them they must pay a heavy price every time they shoot at us. Now the problem has become monstrous, and a military operation inside Gaza will cost us many victims, a price we don't want to pay," Moyal added.
An additional 15 buses were donated by an anonymous donor who contacted the parents' association and volunteered to pick up the bill.
A spokeswoman for the Education Ministry's southern branch responded to the parents' announcement by saying that local school principals and teaching staff would not join the demonstration in Jerusalem, and that schools would open as usual.
"Our school will be open despite the planned strike, although I completely identify with the residents' stress," said Meir Abutbul, principal of Haroeh elementary school in Sderot, who does not live in the city. "At the same time, I think the younger pupils shouldn't be taken to Jerusalem to demonstrate and should come to school."