The rockets might have stopped for now, but the staff and student body at The Max and Ruth Schwartz Sderot Hesder Yeshiva understand that the situation is far from calm.
“The traumatic effects of the sirens and the rockets lasts long after any so-called ceasefire goes into effect,” explained Rabbi Ari Katz, the institution’s director of public relations. “And this is especially true for children, an entire generation of kids who grew up under rocket fire experiencing the horror of the attacks.”
The 500 student/soldiers enrolled at the hesder yeshiva (a five-year program combining Torah learning with Israel’s mandatory IDF service) decided to give back, especially to those in need: On Sunday, the students delivered toys to children throughout the city.
“We handed out toys to religious kids, non-religious kids, kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds, really to young children from all parts of the society,” said Katz. “And not only did this put a smile on the faces of these kids, but the hesder guys got something out of it as well.”
Katz explained that the toys were donated by a group of families living in the Ramot, Jerusalem, neighborhood who wanted to do something for the children of Sderot, as well as by other donors from around the world who wanted to help the often-beleaguered town under fire.
Rabbi David Fendel, the yeshiva's dean, said that, “when the sirens go off and the rockets fall, the sounds of Torah from our Beit Midrash (study hall) drown out those horrible sounds.”
He added, “But it’s not only Torah, it’s chesed as well. We are an integral part of this community, and it is our responsibility and mission to be one with the people of Sderot.”
Rabbi Fendel explained that many of his students are either emergency first responders or are part of special community-wide team which goes door to door to check on the well-being of residents in the area of a rocket attack.
Katz added, “We have helped beautify the city, partnering in the construction of a spectacular children’s park thanks to the generosity of the Moskowitz Family Foundation and known as the Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz Sderot Park of Courage. Our students lead the ruach (spirit) in the city during the Jewish holidays, and help spread Jewish culture and heritage through other projects with the residents of this community.”
Fendel said emphatically, “Hamas is trying to destroy us, but we are here to stay. We will continue to build, grow and thrive, and Sderot will remain a hub of Torah in the western Negev for many generations to come.”