Israel is under attack, its cities and towns barraged by intense rocket fire and missiles. Sirens sound day and night, suddenly, unexpectedly. Soldiers are deployed along the border and sent into battle where they risk their lives to overcome the Gazan enemy, pinpoint rocket launching sites and discover and destroy tunnels, protecting their land and fellow citizens.
Still, life goes on. With summer in full swing, parents are at work and children attend day camps or play at home, while all along sirens blare and the thunder of distant explosions resonates in the background.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, Yad L’Yeled Hameyuchad—Lend A Hand to a Special Child opened a summer camp for children with Special needs who are residents of southern Israel, which has been most hard-hit by the constant missile bombardment from Gaza. The camp is situated in Yad L’Yeled’s beautiful Retreat Center in the northern port city of Haifa and is attended by dozens of children, residents of Kiryat Malachi, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The special-needs campers are accompanied by a full staff of fifty dedicated volunteers who remain with their charges 24 hours a day, ensuring that each child enjoys and gets the most out of his camp experience.
Since many of the children are unable to comprehend the urgent need to run to a secured area as soon as the wail of a siren is heard, the only viable solution, it seemed, was to either keep them confined to a secured room 24-7 - a largely impossible task - or else move them from harm’s way. Thus the concept of the camp was born.
Several days ago in camp, a heartwarming scene occurred. A set of twins with special-needs from Kiryat Malachi celebrated their birthday, and their parents wished them a tearful “Happy birthday” on Skype, speaking from their bomb shelter at home down south.
Rabbi Mendy Blintzky, executive director of Yad L’Yeled Hameyuchad, explained why the initiative is so crucial.
“Despite having emptied our coffers and stretching ourselves far beyond our budget, we’re keeping the camp open and continuing to operate without change in order to ensure the safety of our precious children. Really, the government should be acting to protect the children and move them out of harm’s way; but since nothing has been done to guarantee their safety, we took the children under our own wing, and we gratefully welcome any support and financial assistance.”
With Operation Protective Edge persisting and no immediate end in sight, the organization launched a second initiative with the goal of bringing happiness and cheer to special-needs children who remained at home.
A special team of Yad L’Yeled Hameyuchad's Simcha Vans, traveling from shelter to shelter accommodating special-needs children, distributing loads of sweets and valuable gifts and even presenting a comedy show suitable for the children! The Simcha Van also visits private shelters in southern Israel and has distributed tablets to children with special-needs to help them overcome the boredom, tension and heavy anxiety. To assist the children, a special application was installed in the tablet to warn them to react to sirens.
To date, 200 tablets have already been distributed, but there are still another 300 children eagerly anticipating this valuable gift