In honor of the new school year and in a show of solidarity to embattled residents of southern Israel, senior government officials toured schools and educational institutions throughout the Negev.
Among them, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the city of Sderot, together with Education Minister Shai Piron, to open a new religious high school.
During the visit, the prime minister promised students and teachers alike that the government would provide them with both "knowledge and security," and praised the children's "thirst for knowledge".
"This is what distinguishes us from the animals. We are the people of the book: on one hand we cling to our heritage and on the other we grasp the future," he said, according to Channel Two, emphasizing the importance of both Torah study and secular education embodied by the religious-Zionist movement.
Education Minister Shai Piron offered words of strength and encouragement to the children, all of whom spent their summer vacation running to bomb shelters due to the ceaseless rocket attacks against their town.
"Today we begin to teach a future prime minister, a future doctor, a future IDF Chief of Staff!" he declared.
For over a decade, Sderot has endured the brunt of rocket fire from Gazan terrorists, and residents there have just 15 seconds to find shelter after air raid sirens sound due to its close proximity to the Hamas-ruled enclave.
According to some statistics over 50% of children in Sderot suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to a childhood under fire.
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, who has voiced sharp criticism of the government for failing to the secure his city, struck a hopeful note, and thanked the prime minister for his support of the city.
"We won a great military and civilian victory," he said, invoking the steadfastness of the southern region's population in the face of attacks and referring to the children as "warriors."
"With God's help we are sure that it will lead us to a better future."
Other government ministers also made the rounds, including Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who visited an elementary school in the Sha'ar HaNegev region bordering Gaza. Sha'ar HaNegev was also particularly badly hit by rocket and mortar fire from Gaza; among the casualties was four-year-old Daniel Tragerman, who was killed by a mortar shell in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
President Reuven Rivlin visited several schools, including a special school for children suffering from cancer, and the Yitzhak Sadeh elementary school in the southern city of Dimona.
Earlier in the day, Rivlin relayed a message to the 164,999 teachers who begin the school year, together with 2,105,394 students.
"Every one of you commands a class of 40 opinionated and lively children. You are fighting for values, for principles. You are fighting on behalf of our home, and for us to be able to live in it together.