A Place Where Gaza Belt Children Can Play without Fear

Gaza Belt children may finally be able to play without fear in a huge new recreation facility being built in Sderot by the Jewish National Fund.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 1/19/2009, 2:43 PM

Israel News Photo: Courtesy of JNF

Gaza Belt children may finally be able to play without fear, once construction is completed on a huge new indoor recreation facility being built in Sderot by the Jewish National Fund.

Rabbi Barry Gelman (seen in the accompanying picture) of the United Orthodox Synagogue of Houston, Texas, who came with a group of 20 American Orthodox rabbis last week on a solidarity tour of the south, said the project provided a way for adults to "give a level of normalcy for children to be like other kids."

The group, which arrived in Israel during Operation Cast Lead, learned first-hand what it is like to race for cover when the Color Red incoming rocket alert siren sent them scurrying for safety into bomb shelters several times, according to a rabbi who posted an article on the experience in his Brooklyn synagogue bulletin.

The playground, which is being built on the site of a former textile factory, will take six months to build and will span 20,000 square feet, with a capacity of 500 people.

JNF said in a statement that it believes some 5,000 children in Sderot and the surrounding communities will benefit from the project, which is expected to be completed in time for Purim festivities.

The facility is divided into two areas, one part intended for infants and toddlers, and the other designed for children in elementary and high school.

It will have a media and computer center, climbing wall, zip line, a mock "shopping mall" for dolls, teddy bears and action figures, birthday party area and a cafeteria as well as an enclosed mini soccer field that doubles as a disco in the evening. 

A statement by the JNF said that psychologists will be available on-site for children and families in need of their services.  A medical station will also be available, and there are plans for classes and other after-school activities. Supporting plans call for a free hourly shuttle bus that will transport families to and from the indoor structure as well.

Super-Fortified for Extra Protection
The building, which goes "above and beyond Israel Defense Forces' standards and regulations," is being constructed with 100% Israeli materials, the organization announced proudly.

Builders are creating compartmentalized interior shelters that provide instant protection when the Color Red incoming rocket alert siren activates. Typically the siren gives a 15-second advance warning of an attack by Gaza terrorists.

An additional shelter is also being built outside the site for children and their families who are waiting to enter the facility.