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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Over 1.2 million elementary and preschool pupils begin their summer vacation Wednesday, eagerly joining their elders - some 612,000 high school and middle school pupils - who began their vacation nearly two weeks ago.
All told, 4,000 schools nationwide are concluding their 2008-2009 academic year.
Pupils across the country will have a number of summertime options, including 4,250 summer camps that are being sponsored by the Education Ministry, which are expected to attract 500,000 youngsters.
An additional 200,000 pupils will take part in other activities sponsored by various youth movements - among them hiking and nature camps - and some 10,000 pupils are expected to complete youth leadership seminars, led by the Education Ministry's Youth Society Administration. The latter group will spearhead volunteer efforts in various community projects to take place both inside and outside of the classroom during the next school year.
In addition to details on all of the activities being offered by the ministry's Youth Society Administration, the Education Ministry has posted information on worker's rights for minors on their Web site, for high school pupils who may be working a summer job. This includes minimum wage, working hours, breaks and the legal ages allowed for the performance of certain jobs. All this can be found online at: http://noar.education.gov.il/main/upload/miscell/summer.htm.
The Ashalim-JDC organization has a free, 16-page booklet - so far in Hebrew only - available on its Web site that advises parents and caregivers on ensuring a safe summer. The illustrated guidebook is meant especially for those families that can't afford to send their children to the shopping mall or to summer camps to pass the time.
Downloadable at www.jdc.org.il, the booklet advises keeping kids occupied with activities other than TV and computers, while encouraging them to get physical activity and even to cook safely in the kitchen. Recipes for nutritious meals are also supplied.
The organization hopes to translate the booklet to English and other languages in the coming months.
Ashalim-JDC, established by the American Joint Distribution Committee, focuses on planning and developing services for at-risk children and teenagers. Since it was established a decade ago, it has invested over NIS 830 million in developing over 300 programs to help some 85,000 disadvantaged children.
Clalit Health Services has released similar tips for schoolchildren on vacation and their parents, stressing the importance of healthful eating, drinking water rather than fattening sweet beverages, exercise and limiting TV and computer time.
At the swimming pool and beach, supervise children at all times to avoid drowning accidents. When driving, always put small children in safety seats and buckle up. Never leave a child even for a few seconds in a parked car.
At a hotel or guest house, look for safety problems and keep electric urns out of reach. Never leave babies and toddlers alone in the bathtub or wading pools.
When going on outings, equip children with hats, high shoes, sunscreen, long pants and plenty of drinking water. Instruct youngsters not to move rocks or put their hands in places where snakes or scorpions may lurk.
Children on bikes, scooters and skates must wear protective helmets.
At home, keep chairs and other furniture that can be climbed on away from open windows and balconies. Lock up matches and lighters to prevent children from playing with them.
Never leave children under 12 at home without supervision. If they are older and can be left on their own, leave emergency numbers.