Sderot Indoor Recreation Center
For nearly a decade, residents of Israel’s western Negev have endured continual rocket attacks from the bordering Gaza Strip. Hardest hit is the town of Sderot—located less than one mile from Gaza—whose children have grown up with the psychological trauma that comes with living under the threat of attack. Because they must always be within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter, an afternoon at the park turns into a potentially dangerous activity, forcing children to spend most of their time indoors. And even during periods of relative quiet, when reports of rocket attacks don’t make the headlines, they continue to occur.
Playing Without Fear
To make a lasting difference in this community, Jewish National Fund built a 21,000-square-foot secure indoor playground and community center, Israel’s largest such facility, as a gift to Sderot’s families. Since its grand opening in March 2009, the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center has brought a welcome sense of normalcy to the region, providing young people with a fun place to simply be kids and parents with the peace of mind that their children are playing in a safe environment.
The $5 million facility was constructed in an old textile warehouse and retrofitted with 300 tons of steel. Play areas double as bomb shelters, ensuring that all occupants can quickly reach safety in the event of a “Code Red” rocket alert.
Visited daily by hundreds of children of all ages, the center’s attractions include a soccer field and volleyball court, movie theater, disco, rock climbing wall, snack area, computer center, and jungle gym. It hosts weekly performances by clowns, magicians, and puppeteers; a disco night for teens; and tutoring and homework workshops staffed by college students. Local schools utilize the center for field trips, special events, and holidays, and day camps hold sessions there during the summer months. It is also used for community events and as a meeting place for social service groups.