It’s the start of the new school year, with a record number of two million schoolchildren beginning classes yesterday.
For the first time ever the number of pupils enrolled in Israeli schools and kindergartens has reached over two million, a 2.8 percent increase over two school years ago.
The Israeli school system has expanded across the board, with 1,582,000 children in schools today, over 1,531,500 two years ago, and the number of kindergarten pupils growing from 373,000 to 423,000.
Today, there are 62,955 classrooms in the Israeli school system over 58,009 two years earlier, while the number of educational staff dealing with them has risen to 141,085 over 130,000 two years ago.
Meanwhile the people of Sderot and the Gaza border region have enjoyed a few weeks of relative quiet from the persistent shelling of their communities, but those savages from Gaza cannot resist trying to kill Israeli children, and so they “welcomed” the new school year with a bang. Literally.
Two rockets fired from Gaza hit factories in an industrial area near Sderot Sunday morning, injuring two people and causing damage to buildings.
One man was reported lightly injured and another suffered from shock from one of the rockets that hit around 9 a.m. A second rocket hit a factory, and caused no injuries. The factory had previously been struck three times by rocket fire from the Strip.
A third Kassam rocket landed in the same area near Sderot about an hour later. No damage was reported in that attack.
The IDF did not take this lightly, and the Air Force returned fire at several terror sites. Unfortunately this pattern has become highly repetitive and seems to do nothing to deter the terrorists.
The only good news in all this, which technically isn’t good at all simply because of the necessity behind it, is that some of the Sderot region’s schoolchildren have a brand new, rocket-proof building to protect them, so that they can study without having to worry where the nearest bomb shelter is.
For the first time in years, the children of Sderot can study in peace.
Living under a constant threat of rocket fire from militants in the nearby Gaza Strip, their schooldays were often interrupted by mad dashes to bomb shelters. But on Monday, they started the school year safe from attack in a new, fortified, rocket-proof school building.
The $27.5 million structure features concrete walls, reinforced windows and a unique architectural plan all designed specifically to absorb and deflect rocket fire. Notices on the walls of the Shaar Hanegev high school remind the 1,200 students of their new reality: in case of a warning siren, it reads, stay put.
“You can finally teach without constantly worrying about what to do when there is a rocket attack,” said Zohar Nir-Levi, the principal of the junior high school inside the complex. “You can concentrate on your studies. It used to be that even before you said hello in the morning you were telling people where to run.”
Over the years, authorities have scrambled to protect the town’s schools, reinforcing buildings with concrete barricades and stronger roofs. A heavily fortified elementary school was also built, as was a special indoor playground with a mini-soccer field, video games and bomb shelters, according to local officials.
But officials say the new high school takes protection to a new level. The school, built on a sprawling campus, took two years to plan and then two more years to construct.
Each grade has its own color-coded building, with colorful tiles lining the floors. It features concrete shelters in the school yard as well, to allow students on recess to find cover in the 15-second window they have between the sound of the siren and the landing of the rocket. A science lab and an auto shop are fortified. Even the angles of the buildings are specially built to deflect incoming projectiles.
“The walls are thick, the windows are very thick too,” said Yuval Gani, the architect who designed the school. “The doors are protected, the roof is protected also…. The facade of the building, its task is to deviate the missiles.”
The most poignant comment came from an 11th grader:
Michael Spitzer, an 11th grader, said the protection of the building made him less concerned about his younger sister, who also studied there and his mother, who is a teacher.
“I don’t have to worry about them anymore,” he said. “I can just focus on school and not all the other stuff.”
How many 11th graders in other countries have to worry about such things?
In any event, kol hakavod to the planners and builders of the new school, and I wish hatzlacha raba (great success) to all the millions of Israeli schoolchildren in their studies this year.