As Israeli School Year Begins, Kids Clamber Over Rocket-Struck Playground (VIDEO)
Almost a week after a Hamas rocket from Gaza ripped through a kindergarten’s playground in Israel’s coastal Ashdod, excited kids were once again climbing on repaired slides and tunnels as more than 2 million Israeli schoolchildren returned to school nationwide on Monday.
“This is a victory for all of us,” Mayor Yehiel Lasry told Israel’s Channel 2 News. “We’re putting the traumas behind us, and are turning over a new page and beginning a new year.”
Despite parental and administrative safety concerns in the – hopefully – receding shadow of 50 days of Operation Protective Edge and over 4,000 rockets and mortar shells fired towards Israel, school officials here are confident.
“I rehearsed, together with the children, how to take cover in the ‘protected space,'” Principal Ninette Peretz said, adding that the drill, was “crucial, if we have to seek shelter.”
Describing the previous rocket strike, Peretz said at the time, “I’d just gotten home, and there was siren, and a [rocket] strike,” in the playground of the 35-pupil center.
Rocket shrapnel tore through a slide, and destroyed other playground toys.
“I’d left just 10 minutes earlier, with the assistant, since we were preparing for the new school year,” she told police. “I heard about it and I’m shaking,” she said.
“An immense tragedy was averted here, thank God – we’re lucky that the children weren’t here,” she said with relief.
Noting the speedy repairs to the outdoor playground, Lasry said, this is a victory for all of the city’s residents.”
Watch a video of the first day of kindergarten:
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials attended traditional school year openings at facilities throughout the country.
Netanyahu and Education Minister Shai Piron opened the 2014-2015 school year by meeting with first and second grade pupils at the New Amit Torani School in Sderot and the Mevoim School in the Merhavim Regional Council, a statement said.
“Be good friends with each other and be hungry for knowledge,” Netanyahu told the pupils.
“This is what distinguishes us and gives our people special strength. We are the People of the Book and today the people of the tablet as well. We hold on to our heritage and also the future. Study the Bible, our heritage, math, computers and science. Our heritage and the future go hand in hand. Be hungry for knowledge on behalf of the People of Israel, the State of Israel, the Land of Israel, yourselves and your families. We will take care to give you knowledge and security,” Netanyahu said.
Piron, suggested that the children make every effort to forge closer ties with their classmates.
“Look around. Think about who has fewer friends, look around and ask who made fewer trips over the summer. This is an assignment for each of you. If during the year a child does not come to school because he is sick, don’t forget to call him,” Piron said.
“Treat your teachers with respect. When you talk to each other in the yard, don’t forget to talk nicely. Our greatest test is not how we behave in wartime but how we behave in times of peace. Our true test is the test of morality, identity and treating each other properly,” Piron told the students.
Watch a video of Netanyahu and Piron with new students: