When seventh grader
Brandon Israel visited Israel a few years ago with his family,
he and his younger sister Lily saw a different side of Israel, one that most
tourists – and kids their age – don’t normally see. In honor of Brandon's Bar
Mitzvah on January 28, he’s asking friends and family to donate to
Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Sderot Indoor Recreation Center
and help give children of all ages a sense of safety and freedom that
he has enjoyed throughout his childhood.
Built by JNF in 2009, the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center
is the largest secure indoor playground in Israel, situated in a town that
borders on Gaza and is often attacked by Qassam rockets. At the sound of the
siren, the town’s citizens have 15 seconds to get to safety. The goal of the
playground is to provide Sderot’s youth with a place to have fun, connect with
friends, enjoy stimulating classes, and be children, beyond the conflict.
Parents can have peace of mind knowing that their children are playing and
learning in an environment that is safe and secure.
Brandon thought the
playground was “really cool.”
“I want the kids in Sderot to have as much fun as possible,” he said. “I hope
the money I donate can buy more equipment so they can have lots of fun while
He says that after seeing the center, he tries not to take
things for granted. Living in Florida, he likes to spend a lot of time playing
outside, something the children of Sderot can’t do without the fear of a siren
warning them of an incoming rocket.
“These kids are less fortunate than I
am, so I want to donate and help these kids live the way I live and have the
most fun they can,” Brandon said. “I want them to get their minds off of the
sirens and rockets.”
Brandon’s mother, Caryn Israel,
says the playground really hit home for both of her children. “The concept of
freedom is one most children take for granted; ours play outside all the time,”
she said. “The idea that it is of tremendous danger to just go out was really
eye-opening to them. Brandon and Lily really enjoyed playing with the children
Caryn is very proud of her son’s decision to raise money for
Sderot for his bar mitzvah. “He’s got a soulful heart,” she said. “He’s the kind
of kid who, when he sees those in need, whether they fell on the ice rink or
feel badly about themselves in whatever way, always tries to make them feel
Picture Caption: Brandon Israel (left) playing with a boy from Sderot
at the Indoor Recreation Center.