Sderot Indoor Recreation Center
“During periods of rocket attacks, there is nowhere for kids to go, except to school and then return home,” said JNF President Stanley Chesley. “At a time of uneasy quiet when most IDF analysts believe that Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip are rearming, the JNF is also using the ‘time-out’ – to complete this important project for the children of Sderot and surrounding communities. 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.”
Sderot first came under rocket fire from Palestinians in 2001, but since Israel withdrew from Gaza the number of rockets attacks has risen significantly. Over the last few years, rocket fire has become an almost daily event. There have been days that 50 rockets were launched from Gaza into Sderot. Close to 7,000 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.
“These children are afraid everyday, every hour of the day,” said Dinah Houri, a school teacher in Sderot. “Wherever they go and whatever they do, they must think about what they will do if an alarm sounds. The question is always ‘where will I hide?'”
“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.”