The suicide bombing in Netanya late Tuesday morning caught the school's principals by surprise in Jerusalem, to which they had traveled earlier that morning for an Education Ministry workshop.
In a city which has become one of the main targets of suicide bombings over the past five years, however, the school system's emergency regulations immediately kicked into place, long before the absent principals managed to make their way back into town.
"Although we were in Jerusalem," said Ariela Segal, the Education Ministry's supervisor for Netanya's elementary schools, "our hearts were at home... Unfortunately, in Netanya, the Education Ministry's emergency regulations work overtime."
Given the series of bitter and traumatic terror attacks that have taken place in the city in recent years, Segal told The Jerusalem Post, local schoolchildren are highly sensitive.
"Some of the children jump at every sudden and loud noise," Segal said. "A day like today surely brings back to their minds previous traumatic events."
According to Segal, seven elementary and high school children were wounded in the attack, including one seriously injured adolescent and two children that suffered shock.
"We were extremely worried because there was a group of children this morning at cultural center, which is right at the junction where the mall stands," Segal said. "Fortunately, they had returned to school by the time the blast occurred."
Schools whose principals were in Jerusalem immediately appointed replacements to coordinate the emergency steps the city's schools follow after every terrorist attack, which include having school counselors and psychologists arrive at each school.
The children remained in school until the police confirmed it was safe for them to leave, and were let out of school early. As was the case following previous attacks, the children were instructed to go directly home, or - if their parents were not home - to leave them detailed information as to where they would be spending the afternoon. Children in special education classes were driven home in taxis, since the buses that normally drive them home were unable to circulate from school to school following the attack.
"Our school has suffered its share of trauma," said Flora Lulu, the principal of the Shorashim elementary school.
Two siblings whose mother and older brother were injured in the attack, Lulu said, were informed of the facts by their father, who arrived at the school and accompanied them to a relative's home. The children's teachers, as well as psychological counselors, remained in constant contact with the children.
"The children here are already in a state of panic, and when they hear such a blast, followed by the sound of sirens going by on their way to the hospital, it reminds them of other blasts they have heard, and they are catapulted back to those past moments of fear and anxiety," said Dalia Friedman, the principal of the Yehuda Hanassi elementary school.
"We do everything to make sure the children calm down and receive precise information about what happened," Friedman said. "We tell them about any children from their schools that have been hurt, because we prefer that they receive the information from us rather than through rumors. But most importantly, we talk to them about optimism and the shared forces we need to keep going. It's a very sad day, but we have to keep going."
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