The Jewish Agency, with funding from the Israel Emergency Fund of the United Jewish Communities, is taking the entire population of 8,000 children ages 6 to 17 who live in the Sderot area out of the range of attack and letting kids do what they like best. From amusement parks to nature reserves, from water parks to concerts, and from touring the country to enjoying recreation with friends, kids from Sderot are having a great summer. (More about the program's funding.)
But why not hear it from them? Come back to this blog frequently to check out blog entries from different camps thoughout the summer.
Fred Whittaker, a Christian high school teacher from Louisville, Kentucky, came to visit Jewish Agency summer camps in the Southern region. He was accompanied by Ayala Mei-Dan from the Jewish Agency's Department for Resource Development and Public Affairs and by Ofer Baram, Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region.
A few years ago, Fred began teaching a course on the Holocaust at a Catholic school. Thanks to a relationship with a Holocaust survivor that proved extremely powerful, Fred and his class began investigating the Holocaust and the lessons spilled over to other subjects.
Fred and his students understood that the Holocaust was being insufficiently studied in Christian schools and they turned to the Kentucky legislature to pass a law making Holocaust studies a mandatory part of the school curriculum in the state of Kentucky. Thanks to his activity, Fred received the Anne Frank Award and was accorded recognition by the Jewish community of Louisville. His activities have also led to close ties between the Catholic and Jewish communities in Louisville.
This is Fred's second visit to Israel. He arrived here this summer on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, in the framework of a joint project for Christian and Jewish teachers, and also as a representative of the Federation of Kentucky. He is recording and photographing his impressions for use as study and guidance materials in Christian schools and in the Jewish and Christian community.
The tour began at the Jewish Agency's Afikef Day Camp. Fred met and interviewed children and at the end received a gift from them, a tray that was made by the children.
Ofer and Fred continued on to the Sderot police station and to Trauma Center 106, where they met with Jean-Claude and Dmitri, two Sderot residents who have received assistance grants from the Jewish Agency’s Victims of Terror Fund.
From Sderot they journeyed to Kibbutz Kfar Aza. There they met Noam whose house was hit by a mortar shell. Noam also received Jewish Agency assistance via the S.O.S. Foundation. Noam related how the community coped after the fall of the mortar shells and the death of a kibbutz member.
Lunch with Ofer Schmerling at the Schmerling Bar was followed by a tour with Soni of the Jewish Agency's Friedmann Student Village Ibim.
The visit to the region was moving and heart-wrenching. Fred promised that upon his return to Kentucky, he would tell people what he had experienced here, and especially how despite all the difficulties experienced by the residents of the area, the children still manage to find joy.
This blog entry was written by Ofer Baram, JAFI Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region.