Israel’s Largest Indoor Playground to be Built in Sderot
June 12, 2008 -- New York, NY -- In the Israeli town of Sderot, parents cannot send their children outside to play on a beautiful day. Soccer fields are no longer home to after-school games. There is no sound of laughter, cries, screeches, or any other usual childhood noise. The streets are not filled with children riding bicycles but rather with an eerie silence.
As rockets launched from the nearby Gaza Strip continue to fall on Sderot, life is at a standstill, especially for the town’s 3,000 children, who are forced to remain indoors all day rather than risk the chance that they won’t be able to reach a bomb shelter quickly enough during a rocket attack.
To directly impact the lives of the children of Sderot and provide them with the chance to simply be kids, Jewish National Fund (JNF) is embarking on a massive project: building the largest indoor playground in Israel.
“Sderot has been under siege for seven years,” said JNF President Stanley M. Chesley. “We can’t stop the rockets from falling but we can give these children an opportunity to escape the anxiety and fear that they are forced to live with.”
The all-inclusive Indoor Recreational Center, similar to New York City's Chelsea Piers, will provide Sderot's youth with a place to have fun, connect with friends, enjoy stimulating classes, and be children, beyond the conflict. A place to feel strong and free, away from their daily helplessness and anxiety. And parents will have peace of mind knowing that their children are playing and learning in an environment that is safe and secure.
The 21,000 square-foot state-of-the-art indoor playground, a $5 million project, will be located in a secure industrial zone and feature recreational and exercise facilities for children ages 16 and under, including jungle gym equipment, a soccer field and volleyball court, a rock climbing wall, a snack area and gift shop, a movie and television area, a disco, swing sets, a merry-go-round, and more. The facility will be under the supervision of the Israeli Army Engineers for Security Clearances and the educational arm of the IDF will provide after-school tutoring services. There will also be three therapy rooms to help children suffering from trauma.
Sderot first came under rocket fire from Palestinians in 2001, but since Israel withdrew from Gaza the number of rockets attacks has risen significantly. In recent months, rocket fire has become an almost daily event. There have been days that 50 rockets were launched from Gaza into Sderot. To date, 6,627 Kassam rockets have been fired on the Sderot area, with 11 killed and hundreds wounded.
A recent study showed that at least 75 percent of children ages 4-18 in Sderot suffer from post-traumatic stress, including sleep disorders and severe anxiety. They suffer nightmares, loss of appetite and problems in school. Some 120 children are currently undergoing long-term mental health therapy. Additionally, because the children do not play in public gardens or even in their own backyards, the lack of basic activities is creating difficulties in the motor development of young children, and the lack of social activities is contributing to the at-risk factor in the teenage group.
“From the time a siren goes off indicating an incoming rocket, Sderot’s residents only have 15 seconds to make their way to a bomb shelter; not enough time if you’re a young child playing outside with friends or riding around the neighborhood on your bicycle, or really doing anything that kids do,” said Chesley. “So they don’t do anything. Not only do we want to give them a place to go but we also want to give them some pride back. With this facility, they will be able to say to their friends in other parts of the country, ‘Look what I have.' It will be a badge of honor.”
To make a donation go to www.jnf.org/sderotplayground. For naming opportunities call your local office at 888-JNF-0099.
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.