Violence on Israel’s southern border persists as agricultural terrorism burns the Holy Land and tens of Hamas rockets from Gaza are fired towards Israeli cities. “With war continuing to rage within view of Sderot’s residents, children in this area are already like war veterans,” Danielle Rubin, Director for American Friends of Meir Panim charity organization told Breaking Israel News. “We must help to keep them safe and hopeful for their future under these very trying circumstances.”
Until now, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has performed limited retaliation in response to the incendiary kites and rocket terrorism, due to the complexity of the situation. There is an obvious human cost that these tit-for-tat actions bring; the frightening sounds, including red alert sirens, smells, and images into the minds and lives of Sderot’s residents, who live adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
Following 10 years of continuous rocket fire towards Sderot, the city, nicknamed the “Bomb Shelter Capital of the World”, enjoyed a few years respite. Unfortunately, terror has returned to the area with a vengeance and citizens are suffering.
“With Israel’s southern border once again suffering from terrorist activities, we are grateful that we have been able to help ease the suffering of Sderot’s children,” Rubin said. “Our local youth clubs are providing a safe and comforting place for teens. They are serving as healthy outlets to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the crisis.”
The youth clubs are located in converted bomb shelters. Should a red alert siren go off while the youth are in the club, they are already safe. “Meir Panim renovated the bomb shelters to make them feel more like relaxing spaces to hang out rather than places to hide from rockets,” continued Rubin. “These clubs provide traumatized teens with a safe place to socialize and expand their horizons.”
Meir Panim provides a myriad activities at Sderot youth clubs. These include cooking classes, dancing, laugh therapy, music, and carpentry workshops. In addition, they host fun group activities like barbecues, holiday parties, sports, and important lectures on violence and other risky activities.
Shai Eliav, a 10th grader from Sderot who attends a Meir Panim youth club, told Breaking Israel News, “This is the one and only, and the best center. Everyone here feels a family-like togetherness. This is my second home. Also, there is a good learning environment here and also a good social environment. The staff helps us with everything.”
One example of the importance of the clubs is the great work being done for 17 Sderot teens through the leadership group, NOVA (Youth for Building the Future). Participants are involved in social action, perform volunteer work, and contribute to the community. They also participate in discussions about social issues such as: racism, absorption, and acclimation difficulties, the army and national service, working rights of teenagers, education, the security situation, and acceptance of others. These discussions help to strengthen the teens’ communication skills and develop leadership qualities.
An especially moving activity is when participants visit war veterans. The youth listen to veterans’ war stories – which they now can better relate to – and express their appreciation for the their service by giving a small gift and a lot of warmth. The group also visits hospitals several times each year to cheer up patients and give gifts.
Meir Panim hopes that youth attending this program will grow to become some of Israel’s greatest leaders due to their compassion and unique life experiences.
Children at the center have personally requested to the organization an upgrade of some of the aging equipment. This includes a ping-pong table, a snooker table, video games and remote controls, office equipment, yard furniture for a sitting area and sports equipment, such as a volley ball, a net, basketball and a punching bag.
“Meir Panim is able to continue our network of social welfare programs in Israel only through generous donations from our amazing supporters,” said Rubin. “We are so grateful that we are able to make a positive impact on the lives of struggling Israeli children.”
To donate to Meir Panim, please visit here.
Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.