Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettMiriam Alster/Flash90

Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Monday morning that in the coming year, a free "Children's After School Program" will be launched for children living in southern Israel. The program was launched, said Bennett, in a bid to help local children against the backdrop of the ongoing security situation in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip.

Over the past few months, Hamas terrorists have been bombarding the southern region and the Gaza surrounding communities with incendiary balloons and kites as well as hundreds of rockets.

"We have promised to establish an afternoon school program for every child in the south," said Bennett. "The south is us. The tense security situation in the south in recent months has had an impact on the lives of the students. We will give the students a respite in the afternoon, and we will give a class for all the children of the south in grades 4 and 5 in order to enrich the students and allow them to engage in activities.

"Our commitment to the residents of the south is to provide security and stability, both physically and educationally. And as long as the situation continues, we will consider additional measures as well," he added.

Shmuel Abuav, director general of the Education Ministry said: "Recreational activities, including enrichment classes, are among the the best ways to preserve a routine, build resilience and to ease tensions among students."

"The program is organized for all students in the southern area and the communities surrounding the Gaza strip. It will include various fields such languages, sciences, swimming, sports, music and other arts. The program is funded by the Ministry of Education and will be under the Ministry's full supervision.

"The program offered to each child is not only as a response to the need, or the only means to reduce tensions, but it is also an opportunity. An opportunity to broaden horizons, to experiment and develop skills."

Aviad Friedman, chairman for the Israel Association of Community Centers, added, "Bennett's plan and the Ministry of Education enable a routine of quality enrichment and recreation, even in places where emergency has become routine. And its adds to many enrichment program for the children of all geographic and social periphery, aiming to promote equal opportunities and reducing gaps."

As part of the program, the Ministry of Education will provide an after-school program for all fourth and fifth graders in all local jurisdictions, totaling 50,000 students. Subsidies from the ministry will be based on income level according to the following outline:

*Top 50% income level will receive 100 NIS a year per child.

*Lower 50% income level will receive 200 NIS a year per child

The programs offered will cover a variety of fields:

Languages - English, Arabic, Hebrew

Technology/Science - Computers, Thinking Development, Robotics Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Social Network on the Internet

Nature, Environment, Challenge and Sustainability

Swimming/Sports - Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Chess, Swimming, Cycling, Basketball and Soccer

Music Groups - Brass instruments, Percussion Instruments, Choir, Musical Ensembles

Art - theater, Cinema, Still photography/Video/Smartphones, Plastic Art, Creative Writing