Sderot families weigh sending kids to US

US grassroots organization finds Jewish families willing to host children from the rocket-hit town.

Kassam top quality 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam top quality 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
Fear of rockets falling keeps Sarit Ben-Hamo, 14, from sleeping at night in her Sderot home. "Last night she woke up because she thought she heard a siren," her father, Haim, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "She is scared," he said of his daughter, who for half of her life has lived in a city that has been under attack by Palestinian terrorists living across the border in Gaza. Haim has lived in Sderot all his life and has no intention of leaving the city. But these days, he is weighing sending Sarit to the US as part of a new grassroots program called "Save Israel's Children." It was created in the last month by a non-affiliated group of Jewish friends scattered from California to the East Coast. According to Batya Katar, head of the Sderot Parents Association, some 150 parents from Sderot have already signed up for the program. Katar is helping field applications in Israel and is likely to fly to the US in advance of the children. On the American side, news of the program has spread mostly by word of mouth, although it does also have a Web site. "A friend told a friend," said Avi Wolbe from the New York area, who was solicited for the program by a friend. With seven of his nine children out of the house, Wolbe is looking to make a difference in the life of a Sderot child by offering him or her a safe haven in his suburban home. "We are just a group of people who want to help. We thought of an idea to bring some kids here and to give them a break," said Wolbe in a telephone interview with the Post Sunday. "I read the news way to much," said Wolbe, who added that he has been bothered by the continued attacks against Sderot. The group is working on matching up Sderot families with Jewish ones in the US and Canada who are willing to pay for the plane ticket and host a child in their home for a length of time to be agreed upon by the host family and the child's parents. Wolbe, who moved to the US from Israel 27 years ago, said that although he considers himself more American than Israeli, he and his family speak Hebrew at home, so a child from Sderot would have no problem communicating. Next week, Wolbe plans to fly to Israel to help set up the program and to meet with prospective parents and Katar. Among those who initiated the program and created its Web site is a 26-year-old American engineer, Gennadiy Faybyfhemko, who was also disturbed by images from Israel of Sderot's children. "I see that the children are crying and shocked. They can't study," he told the Post on Sunday. "Right now they can't stay there, it is unbearable," said Faybyfhemko, who added that he feels a sense of global responsibility to the Jewish people. If the government can't solve the problem, he said, then at least some Jewish families in the United States can help out.